A top People's Liberation Army Navy officer says training on the high seas will become routine for China's growing fleets but that does not mean it is changing its defence policy.
Rear Admiral Jiang Weilie, commander of the South Sea Fleet, told Xinhua on the amphibious assault ship Jinggangshan, which has been taking part in drills in the western Pacific for two weeks, that training on the high seas was common among many countries' navies.
"A developing and growing Chinese navy does not mean China's near-sea defence policy has changed," Xinhua quoted Jiang as saying.
"With the help of airborne early-warning aircraft … we have explored new ways of training the navy's aviation force and vessels to co-operate in combat in faraway seas, with the use of information technologies," Jiang said.
The 57-year-old said combat training on the high seas would become routine for the Chinese navy in the future, yesterday's Xinhua report said.
Meanwhile, Liu Cigui , the chief of the civilian State Oceanic Administration told the People's Daily that China will "maintain regular patrols in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea" to safeguard the country's territorial sovereignty.
"China's maritime law enforcement used to be loose and inefficient," Liu said, praising last month's restructuring that integrates marine surveillance, police coastguards, fishery and the customs anti-smuggling unit into one maritime law enforcement agency.
Macau-based military affairs commentator Antony Wong Dong said Jiang's remarks were targeted largely at neighbouring countries that had territorial disputes with China, such as Vietnam and the Philippines.
Wong said the PLA Navy's successful training posed a real threat to those countries.
"Jiang's hidden message is that the navy will fully back up the Chinese government and show off its real fighting power in case sovereignty disputes cannot be settled through negotiations," Wong said, adding that Jiang, who has commanded the South Sea Fleet since November 2010, was trying to appear to be friendly by downplaying the navy's strategic ambition.
The Jinggangshan and other warships, including a frigate, a destroyer and a missile frigate, took part in a live-fire training exercise in the western Pacific on Sunday morning.