BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- China announced it will cut the number of its standing troops by 300,000 by the end of 2017 on Thursday, in its latest effort to build slimmer but stronger armed forces.
Yang Yujun, spokesman of China's Defense Ministry, made the announcement at a press conference hours after President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, pledged the military cuts at a massive military parade commemorating the end of WWII.
Yang said the move will mainly target troops equipped with outdated armaments, administrative staff and non-combatant personnel, while optimizing the structure of Chinese forces.
At 2.3 million, China now has the world's largest active-duty military, including 850,000 ground forces, according to a government paper published in 2013.
Yang said the reform will adopt a step-by-step approach and will be accomplished by the end of 2017.
He said the decision is in line with the current situation of the state and military. "Chinese armed forces will be slimmer but more capable, and their composition more scientific."
This will be China's fourth military reduction since the 1980s. In 1985, China downsized its army by more than 1 million, the largest cut ever.
Even after the reduction, China's military will still be the world's largest, which meets China's practical needs, Yang said. Aside from safeguarding national unity and territorial integrity, China needs a military to undertake non-military tasks such as disaster relief, peacekeeping and international rescue, he said.
China also needs its military to cope with the threat of terrorism, separatism and extremism, Yang added.
Concerning China's defense budget, Yang said it will be kept on a proper level to meet various needs including expenditure on new armaments, information technology and soldiers' salaries.
When asked about whether the money saved from downsizing will be used to develop other weapons, the spokesman reiterated China's defensive nuclear policy, saying it won't use nuclear weapons first and China advocates peaceful exploration of outerspace.
China announced in March a 10.1-percent rise in national defense budget in 2015, the lowest growth in five years.
Yang noted the military cut announcement will underline China's bonafide and wish to uphold peace, achieve common development and share prosperity with other nations.
He also told the press conference that "more reform measures will be released."