Monday, April 19, 2010

War games show PLA navy's strength

The Straits Times Singapore
Apr 19, 2010
Impressive exercises send clear message to region that China unafraid to test its reach



HONG KONG: Chinese navy warships have been conducting war games unprecedented in their reach and scope, South China Morning Post said yesterday.

Over the weekend, the East Sea Fleet - with its crack Sovremenny class destroyers, frigates and submarines - was exercising south-east of Japan's strategic offshore islands, the Hong Kong-based newspaper reported, citing various sources.

The fleet steamed through the so-called First Island Chain - the United States-dominated stronghold that links Japan to Taiwan and the Philippines - and is practising anti-submarine warfare manoeuvres.

The ships moved out through the Miyako Strait just days after a North Sea Fleet flotilla sailed in the other direction on its return from a 'confrontation exercise' deep in the disputed South China Sea, said the Post.

That flotilla, comprising destroyers, frigates and auxiliary ships and air cover, sailed some 19 days and covered 6,000 nautical miles, including the Bashi Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan.

They stopped at a Chinese base and early warning radar station at the Spratly Islands' Fiery Cross reef, the site of a past sea battle between Chinese and Vietnamese ships.

Recently, too, the Nanjing and Guangzhou military regions have been running extensive long-range exercises with command planes, bombers and attack aircraft. The manoeuvres have featured stealth and night flying, radar-jamming electronic warfare and multiple mid-air refuellings, as well as simulated bombing raids in the South China Sea.

'We've never seen anything on this scale before - they are finally showing us they can put it all together,' said one Asian defence attache monitoring the developments.

'These types of manoeuvres require extensive command and control capabilities, linking various assets in conflict situations - it is all about communication and flexibility.'

Another noted that while People's Liberation Army (PLA) ships had moved through the island chain in the past, the Chinese navy had never mounted such coordinated action involving both ships and submarines.

Likewise, multiple mid-air refuellings of J-10, JH-7 and J-8 fighter planes from long-range tanker planes had not been seen before.

The exercises are of broader strategic and diplomatic importance, the Post said, as they show China is unafraid to assert its rights of free passage to move beyond foreign naval bases that could contain it, such as the American base on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The island sits on the Miyako Strait.

Two submarines and eight vessels were spotted earlier this month about 140 km south-west of Okinawa, the first time Japan has confirmed the presence of Chinese submarines and such a large number of vessels in the area.

Japanese defence officials acknowledged that China had not violated international law with its recent movements; China said its ships were only training.

Mr Gary Li, a PLA specialist at the London-based Institute of International and Strategic Studies, said: 'We've seen annual exercises at this time, but nothing at all like this.

'It must send a very clear message to the region that it should be prepared to see a China unafraid to really test its reach and move into new areas.'

But the PLA navy's operations in the area of the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea have also alarmed Vietnam.

Vietnam, like China, claims all the islands as its own. Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts of the Spratlys chain.

Vietnam has been particularly active, exploring a new military relationship with the US while also purchasing six Kilo class submarines from Russia.

And Japan is boosting its intelligence resources devoted to China's growing military, which it considers the top national security concern, the business daily Nikkei reported yesterday.

The defence ministry-affiliated National Institute for Defence Studies has established a task force of six researchers to examine China's national security strategy, the daily said.

It will study the strategic thinking guiding the PLA, the purpose of its recent military buildup and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, the daily added.

Questions to Ponder:
Doesn't this resonate with what we were discussing in class last friday?


  1. How do you think China's neighbours feel about the intensity of the PLA military exercises?

  2. What are the implications of a militarily ready China or a China who is on the verge of engaging in a "limited war"?

  3. What does this say about the diplomacy stance of the Chinese?

15 comments:

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韋于倫成 said...

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Ms M said...

Thank you for the generous comments. Would appreciate it if future comments are written in English so that there can be an exchange of views on each issue. Thank you