Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Beijing plans massive military exercises this month

SABER-RATTLING China wants to send a `substantial warning' to `separatists' with an amphibious mock Taiwan-landing backed by guided missiles in Fujian province

AFP , BEIJING

China is to carry out its largest military exercises of the year this month aimed at sending a "substantial warning" to Taiwanese separatists, state media reported yesterday.

The military drills will take place on Dongshan island in Fujian province, just 277km west of Penghu Island, the Beijing News said.

"The Dongshan Island exercises are different from other exercises ... It is a joint exercise of the three militaries [army, air force and navy]. It's the People's Liberation Army's [PLA] largest-scale exercise this year," the Beijing News said.

The report did not say when the drills would start or how long they would last but similar drills in 2001 lasted for four months.

Nor did it reveal how many soldiers would take part in the amphibious mock Taiwan-landing backed by guided missiles, but a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper had said 18,000 troops would be involved.

Western diplomats in Beijing had played down the anticipated drills, saying the number of troops involved was not that large and that the exercises appeared to be routine.

"They are sending a signal by holding the exercises in Fujian, but it is not a provocation due to the size of the exercises," one diplomat said.

The exercises would be smaller than the 2001 drills, when some 100,000 soldiers engaged in amphibious exercises and mock warfare at sea aimed at sinking an aircraft carrier.

But unlike previous exercises, this one would aim at "achieving control of the air", the report said.

"This change doesn't just show that the PLA's military theory has had an enormous change, but also indicates our military has acknowledged that control of the air is the top priority in modern warfare," the Beijing report said.

Practically all the advanced weaponry China possesses will be put in use in the military exercises, including the Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets purchased from Russia, it said.

"This exercise will be aimed at sending a substantial warning to `Taiwan separatists.'"

Nuclear-powered submarines, warships, the latest model missile destroyers and a guided missile brigade would also be involved in the exercises.

"It's not a preventive military manuever against Taiwan independence as they were in the past," the report said.

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