China's military reform is progressing steadily and details of its plans will be released in due course, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said on Tuesday.
The MND remarked after officials were questioned about a recent report that said the country has plans to expand the People's Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLAMC) from 20,000 to 100,000 soldiers.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Tuesday that two special warfare brigades had already been incorporated into the PLAMC, raising the forces' complement of soldiers to 20,000.
Meanwhile, an anonymous person from the navy was quoted by SCMP as saying that the PLAMC will increase the number of soldiers to fulfill new missions. This source also said the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will also increase its personnel numbers by 15%.
As per SCMP, China is establishing a naval base in Djibouti, but as of now the number of soldiers needed to staff the base remains unknown. More than 4,000 American soldiers are stationed in Djibouti.
The report has also said that Chinese forces are likely to be stationed at Gwadar, a port in Pakistan, as a Chinese company made a large investment in facilities there and the port may be able to accommodate Chinese warships in the near future.
In response, the MND says that facilities in Djibouti will be used to provide rest and supply support for Chinese armies which carry out convoys and patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Somalia, as part of the UN's peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.
The Gwadar port program is part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan, which helps promote local development.
Currently, the number of PLAMC soldiers and armament fall far short of those of the US, says Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the Military Academic Research Institute of the PLAN.
There are around 200,000 active soldiers in the US Marine Corps as well as another 40,000 on reserve duty, Zhang added. The US Marines, with their various amphibious assets, possess combat capabilities that are far beyond those of a medium aircraft carrier formation from any other country, said Zhang.
Early in 2015, China announced that three hundred thousand troops would be cut by the end of 2017. Those cuts have mostly affected soldiers from the army, indicating a strategic change for the People's Liberation Army, reported SCMP.