China has expanded military training aimed at Taiwan to include practice for a “short, sharp war” with Japan, a senior US naval officer has said.
Captain James Fannell, director of intelligence and information operations for the US Pacific Fleet, made the assertion at a conference in San Diego, California, on Thursday last week.
He said that all branches of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) trained for taking over the disputed Senkaku Islands — known as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan — during a large military exercise held recently.
“We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise — Mission Action 2013,” Fannell told the conference sponsored by the US Naval Institute.
In a release issued on Wednesday, the institute quoted Fannell as saying: “We concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu island.”
The institute said that China has in the past year increased its military activity and provocative military actions in the South China Sea around the so-called nine-dash line.
“As a senior US government official recently stated, there is growing concern that China’s pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained in the so-called nine-dash line despite the objections of its neighbors and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law,” Fannell said.
“By the way, protection of maritime rights is a Chinese euphemism for coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors,” he said.
Fannell said that the week following the combat drill, a Chinese warship locked its fire-controlled radar onto a Japanese warship.
“Tensions in the South and East China seas have deteriorated with the Chinese Coast Guard playing the role of antagonist, harassing China’s neighbors while PLA Navy ships, their protectors, make port calls throughout the region promising friendship and cooperation,” Fannell said.
According to US reports from last year, more than 20,000 Chinese soldiers, sailors and airmen took part in Mission 2013, which was initially thought to be using Taiwan “as the apparent simulated target.”
The Washington Times said that the 42nd Army of the Guangzhou Military Region command — “the crack force that was the main fighting unit during the Korean War and the 1979 invasion of Vietnam” — took part.
It said that an earlier military exercise involved 40,000 troops from multiple services and was aimed at a large-scale island invasion either in the South China Sea or East China Sea, “where China has encountered strong resistance to its claims of territorial or maritime assets.”
There has been speculation that the exercises were designed to intimidate Taiwan and push President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) into negotiations on a “political settlement” with Beijing.