Navy to launch live-fire drill in disputed waters
The Chinese navy will launch a six-day military drill today in disputed waters of the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands.
The location of the live-fire drill, in waters east of Zhoushan city, Zhejiang province, is not close to the disputed islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands, but military analysts said Beijing was trying to present an aggressive stance to Tokyo and the US, which is hosting a 22-nation military drill in Pacific waters off Hawaii.
The Chinese drill comes after Beijing reiterated yesterday that it recently lodged solemn representation to Tokyo over its activities in the waters, after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Saturday that the country was negotiating to buy the disputed islands.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a press briefing yesterday that China would take every necessary measure to protect its territorial rights.
Military analysts said it was routine for the navy to conduct drills over the summer, but they added that the area used in the current drill was larger than in previous exercises.
'Beijing is adding unusual elements to the regular exercise,' said Antony Wong Dong, president of the Macau-based International Military Association. 'And China is using the drill to counter-balance nationalistic sentiment calling for tougher action.'
A notice issued by the People's Liberation Army Navy last week said navigation and fishing bans would be imposed during the drill, because of the use of 'real weapons'.
Wong said the exercise helped China prepare for further confrontations with Tokyo, as tensions over the disputed islands continued to rise, and he expected the Chinese navy to practise marine landing drills.
'All of the military drills initiated by the US in recent months in the Asia-Pacific region have had marine landing practices, which are regarded as a key criteria for assessing the combat skills of a navy,' he said. 'China now realises that it needs to take strong action, or its territory will be claimed by its neighbours.'
Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said he believed the Chinese navy drill was in response to the US-led 'Rim of the Pacific' exercise, which began on June 29 and ends on August 3. China is not included in that exercise.