THE People's Liberation Army (PLA) has launched a large-scale naval exercise including missile firings and beach landings. The war game, also involving the Air Force, was watched by President Jiang Zemin and other members of the newly-appointed Central Military Commission. Last night's national television devoted nearly five minutes to the manoeuvres, interpreted as another warning to Taiwan. The official media did not mention the time or location of the exercise. Military analysts said it probably took place last week off the coast of Shandong province. Mr Jiang, the commission's chairman, was shown wearing a green military coat aboard a naval cruiser. Manoeuvres included firing missiles and rockets from naval vessels and jet fighters; tanks crushing obstacles on beaches; parachute landings; and fly-pasts by aircraft. China's newly-developed nuclear submarines also put in an appearance. Xinhua (the New China News Agency) quoted Mr Jiang as asking naval officers to 'study and grasp modern expertise well so you can pass muster in both ideology and technology'. 'We must put naval construction in an important position and speed up naval modernisation.' A military analyst said: 'This war game was planned before the recent crisis with Taiwan. 'However, manoeuvres such as taking over beaches could have been conceived with Taiwan in mind.' He added that the exercise demonstrated the PLA could successfully deploy different units of the military. The agency yesterday quoted participants in the exercise as pledging to 'defend the sovereignty of China's territorial waters and safeguard the reunification cause of the motherland'. Another message was to demonstrate the status of Mr Jiang as undisputed leader of the PLA. The agency added that the commanders and fighters vowed to uphold the party and army leadership 'with Jiang Zemin as their core'. Political analysts pointed out that while tension across the Taiwan Strait seemed to have eased somewhat with Mr Jiang reiterating his 'eight-point initiative' to Taiwan, the PLA had not slackened preparations for a 'military solution'. Other manoeuvres that are expected to take place this year include formations of naval vessels. This would be in preparation for a sea blockade. Meanwhile, the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency reported last night that the professional standards of naval officers manning nuclear vessels had improved with the recruitment of 'scholars and experts'. These officers had been assigned to jobs including command and control. They were also 'providing technological guarantees'.