China's army told to prepare to fight: state media

China's armed forces have been instructed to raise their fighting ability this year, amid heightened tensions with Japan over disputed islands. 

China's state media reported that the directive came in a document released at the beginning of the year by the People's Liberation Army General Staff on military training for this year. 

The report said to prepare for combat, the armed forces must also "vigorously strengthen real-combat-like military training" and intensify efforts to cultivate high-calibre military personnel. 

The report made no mention of the dispute with Tokyo over islands in the East China Sea, which are controlled by Japan as the Senkakus but also claimed by China as the Diaoyus.

The maritime dispute intensified last year when the Japanese government nationalised islands in the small chain it did not already own, triggering anger and protests in China.
Both sides have scrambled fighter jets to the area in recent weeks in a further escalation, though no actual clashes have taken place.