China’s military carried out war games in the disputed South China Sea this week, with warships, submarines and fighter jets simulating cruise missile strikes on ships, the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said yesterday.
China claims almost all of the waters of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year, and in which Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia have overlapping claims.
The US’ Pacific Fleet commander on Monday warned of a possible arms race in the disputed South China Sea that could engulf the region, as nations become increasingly tempted to use military force to settle territorial spats.
In a front-page story, the newspaper said the drill was carried out on Wednesday across “several thousand square kilometers” of waters somewhere in the South China Sea.
The forces were split into two teams, red and blue, as military commanders threw various scenarios at them, including an accidental missile strike on a commercial ship operated by a third party, the paper said.
The warships also simulated deflecting anti-ship missile attacks, and operating in concert with submarines, early warning aircraft and fighter jets, the report added.
“Only by experiencing a variety of difficult situations can one not panic in the midst of war and win,” the paper quoted Li Xiaoyan (李曉岩), deputy chief of staff of the South China Sea fleet and commander of the red team, as saying.
China periodically announces such exercises in the South China Sea, as it tries to demonstrate it is being transparent about its military deployments.
On Sunday last week, the Ministry of National Defense said the navy had recently carried out drills in the South China Sea. It was not clear if the exercises referred to by the newspaper and these drills were the same.
China has been at odds with the US of late over the strategic waterway.
Washington has criticized Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), saying that the construction poses a threat to freedom of navigation in the area, and has conducted sea and air patrols near them.
Last month, US B-52s flew near some of China’s artificial islands, and at the end of October a US guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of one of them.
China also expressed concern last week about an agreement between the US and Singapore to deploy a US P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the city-state.
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