02/25/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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For Chinese military, smog is the best defence against US laser weapons and missiles

by Wang Zhicheng
Bloggers react to China's new national defence tool with a heavy dose of irony. Every year, China reports 1.2 million premature deaths due to pollution. Yesterday, pollution levels in Beijing were eight times higher than normal. For some people, it is "airpocalypse" now.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Beijing's terrible smog, which covers the city in a dark cloud days on end grounding planes and forcing the elderly and children indoors, is the best defence against laser weapons on US naval ships.

On a national TV show, Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong made the puzzling statement, noting that lasers were "most afraid of smog".

Chinese blogs have been flooded with excerpts from the interview and comments slamming the admiral for seeing an upside to one of the country's worst problems.

In December, pro-government newspaper Global Times tried to put a positive spin on smog saying that it can thwart missile attacks and hamper hostile reconnaissance.

But such views have not had the desired effect.  "Are you saying the smog is not air pollution, but a national defence measure?" a blogger said on Sina Weibo microblog.

"Enemies wouldn't need to resort to missile attacks if the smog continues to increase - people will simply be poisoned to death," another dejected reader said.

For most of the past week, northeastern China has been under severe smog, the worst this winter, with some describing it as "airpocalypse".

Yesterday, Beijing issued an orange alert, requiring construction sites to stop their activities and industrial plants to cut output by at least 30 per cent.

Schools and kindergartens cannot hold activities outside and residents are asked to go outdoors only if necessary and always wearing a mask.

Yesterday, PM2.5 levels hit 270 according to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection; however, the US Embassy reported 405 micrograms per cubic metre as a more credible reading.

According to the World Health Organisation, a normal PM2.5 level should be around 50.

According to medical journal The Lancet, there are 1.2 million premature deaths each year in China due to air pollution.

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