The People's Liberation Army Navy will conduct drills in the western Pacific Ocean during the Lunar New Year holiday after finishing a regular patrol mission in the South China Sea.
The PLA Daily reported yesterday that a North Sea Fleet blue-water training flotilla had passed through the Bashi Channel in the South China Sea, between Mavudis Island, the northernmost of the Philippines' Batanes Islands, and Orchid Island, on Thursday.
The flotilla was on its way to the western Pacific for another training mission. The front-page report failed to detail the kind of training drills that will be conducted.
But it said the flotilla had staged anti-submarine co-operation drills involving ships and aircraft, anti-piracy drills and other training near the Spratly and Paracel Islands before entering the western Pacific.
The PLA Navy has conducted series of high seas drills since Communist Party chief Xi Jinping , who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, called on the army to meet the goal of "being prepared for real combat and for victory".
Ni Lexiong , director of the sea power and defence policy research institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said yesterday the drills were aimed at proving the navy's mobilisation readiness.
They were also intended to reinforce the determination of the PLA to defend the nation's sovereignty.
"The international community always doubts whether the PLA is well-prepared or even capable of going to war with Japan over the Diaoyus dispute after several decades of peacetime," he said. He added that the army had banned alcoholic drinks and banquets during the Lunar New Year celebrations to toughen the troops' resolve.
"The army's unremitting efforts during the holidays could also deter our enemies," Ni said.
In December, four warships from the North Sea Fleet exercised in the western Pacific, an earlier PLA Daily report said.
On its way home, the fleet patrolled in the East China Sea, near the disputed Diaoyu Islands - known in Japan as the Senkakus - after passing Yonaguni and Iriomote islands in Japan's Okinawa prefecture. In late November 2011, the defence ministry announced that the PLA Navy would conduct regular annual exercises in the western Pacific.
Military experts saw it as a move by China to flex its military muscle to the US and neighbours with competing territorial claims.
Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, more than 20 warships from the PLA Navy's South Sea Fleet conducted a five-day anti-air-attack and anti-nuclear exercise last month, the PLA Daily reported yesterday.