Top China general orders navy to speed improvements during visit to South China Sea province

A top Chinese commander is ordering the navy to accelerate training and technical upgrades to bolster its war-fighting readiness, in what he describes as a "complicated and difficult" security environment.

Gen. Fan Changlong was quoted Friday as saying the navy needed to respond immediately to threats and be capable of fighting and winning under modern conditions. Those abilities must be put to use to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Fan made the remarks Thursday during an inspection tour of a navy unit in Guangdong province, which lies on the disputed South China Sea.

China's massive naval upgrade is seen as spurred in part by Beijing's desire to put teeth into its claims over virtually the entire South China Sea.