‘Be prepared to throw punches’: Chinese military raises alarm over rising threat from spying

Military mouthpiece insists reconnaissance by other countries poses huge risk and Beijing must be ready to counter it

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 8:01am

Beijing is stepping up efforts to counter what it sees as growing security threats from foreign spying on China, the military’s mouthpiece warned on Monday.

According to a PLA Daily commentary, a number of incidents indicated that the risk from foreign reconnaissance was cause for alarm.

Those incidents included ­Japanese news agency Kyodo releasing detailed photos of China’s first home-grown aircraft carrier, and an American oceanographic vessel deploying an underwater drone last month near the South China Sea.

The armed forces of other countries were readying to establish a broad-spectrum spying network, with some agreeing to share intelligence on the Chinese military, the commentary said.

“It has become a huge security threat. We cannot afford to ignore it. Otherwise, if war were to break out tomorrow, intelligence would be our Achilles heel,” it said.

The commentary said China should be prepared to “throw punches” and counter foreign intelligence by using its home turf advantages.

China and US ‘need rules’ for underwater drone clashes

“The Chinese military has not ruled out taking further stepsin the future,” it said.

Last month, China seized an underwater drone deployed by USNS Bowditch near international waters in the disputed South China Sea – an area in which China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan have completing claims.

The drone was returned to the US a few days after the seizure, but it raised suggestions that the device had collected sensitive data on Chinese activities in the area.

“We are determined to step up counter-reconnaissance efforts, and we are confident that we can contain activities that are harmful to our national interest,” the commentary said.

The drone incident is the latest in a string of confrontations that have focused renewed attention on the strained relations over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Analysts said China’s military would be more active in countering reconnaissance activities.

Beijing-based military observer Li Jie said that in the past China could only protest against close-in reconnaissance activities ­because China’s armed forces lagged well behind rivals, but now its military was stronger and Beijing could take action to stop such activities.

China looks to build up underwater defences following seizure of US drone

Military analyst Zhou Chenming said the risk of clashes between Chinese and other armed forces was expected to rise as China took a tougher stand against intelligence gathering on its doorstep.

“China might increase the number of flights and passages to shadow foreign warplanes and vessels on reconnaissance missions,” Zhou said.

This tactic is often used to drive away foreign forces. China can also step up efforts to drive away foreign underwater drones.”

But there was a limit to the countermeasures, some observers said.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said: “It might be more difficult to counter remote-sensing type of surveillance capabilities such as reconnaissance satellites for example.”