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China appoints Dong Jun as defense minister

China has appointed Dong Jun as its new defense minister, two months after the official dismissal of his predecessor.

Mr Dong, a former navy commander, succeeds Li Shangfu, who was last seen in public in August.

Dong’s appointment was announced Friday by China’s top lawmakers at a meeting of the National People’s Congress standing committee in Beijing.

The move follows a series of firings of senior military officials from the country’s highest posts earlier this year.

Besides Mr Li, this included the removal of Qin Gang as foreign minister in July. No reasons were given for the dismissals of Mr. Li or Mr. Qin. Both had only been in office for seven months respectively.

Other dismissals also took place this week, with nine senior military officials removed from the Standing Committee on Friday, Reuters reported, citing state media Xinhua.

Three heads of state-owned missile defense companies were also removed from Beijing’s top political advisory body earlier this week, according to state media.

Some analysts believe this could indicate that a possible broader purge has taken place, targeting senior military officials.

Mr Dong, 62, was appointed navy commander in August 2021.

His previous roles included deputy commander of the Chinese Army’s Southern Theater Command. Its area of ​​operations includes the South China Sea – a disputed area of ​​which China claims sovereignty over large parts.

Mr Dong’s appointment comes after Chinese and US militaries last week held their first high-level telephone talks in more than a year.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated in 2022 after the visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Taiwan is autonomous, but China considers it a breakaway province that will eventually unite with it.

In recent months, there has been a rapprochement between China and the United States, with Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting his counterpart Joe Biden in California in November and agreeing to resume military communications. The two men had not spoken in over a year.

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