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China to Slim Down Military

09/03/2015 | 12:25am US/Eastern

BEIJING?Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China's armed forces will reduce the number of troops by 300,000, as one of the largest militaries undergoes reforms to make it more effective.

President Xi made the announcement in a speech Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He gave no details on the troop reduction or its time frame.

China maintains one of the largest active-duty militaries in the world. A 2006 government paper said the People's Liberation Army maintained 2.3 million in active-duty personnel, a number that foreign PLA watchers estimate has largely held steady.

The government has openly discussed revamping the armed forces and their command structure to better protect China's growing interests abroad.

Under his leadership, Mr. Xi has called on the military to improve its combat readiness. He has also unleashed a wide-ranging anticorruption campaign that has seen at least 30 generals detained.

Foreign military experts expect the coming reorganization to involve ground forces being slimmed down and more resources earmarked for the navy, which leads China's effort to project power far from its shores.

A more visible military presence combined with greater assertiveness in territorial disputes in nearby waters has unsettled China's neighbors, particularly Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, while raising tensions with the U.S.

In his televised speech for the 70th anniversary commemorations, Mr. Xi said the world remains "far from tranquil" and that a robust military is crucial to defending China, and as a symbol of national power.

"A strong country needs a strong military. A strong military secures a stable nation," Mr. Xi said standing atop Tiananmen, the gate of the former imperial palace in Beijing.

Write to Charles Hutzler at charles.hutzler@wsj.com

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