A Chinese naval taskforce conducted combat exercises in the Eastern Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific earlier this month. The drills raised security concerns in the region, prompting China’s defense ministry to clarify its intentions.
China conducted two naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific in early February. But the drills raised concerns among national security establishments across the region. To clarify it intentions, China says it presents no threat to the region.
“This is a regular arrangement included in an annual training program. It’s not targeting any particular country or enemy.”Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said.
The three-ship flotilla of China’s South Sea fleet conducted 10 exercises including anti-piracy, search and rescue, over a five-day period, based out of the Lombok Strait near Bali island in Indonesia.
The flotilla then entered the western Pacific Ocean on February 4th for more combat training.
The Indo-Pacific venture led to suggestions in the region that the drills might be a signal from China regarding ongoing disputes over the South China Sea, and the country’s commitment to maintaining its sovereignty.
“China has the right to free passage in international waters. We have always observed international law and also taken into consideration security concerns of neighboring countries. And as to the training exercises, we have already informed relevant parties.”Yang said.
China has been systematically developing a blue-water navy that will have a global reach, including the launching of its first aircraft carrier.
China has also sent ships to join anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia and taken part in joint exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere.
The drills took place against the backdrop of territorial issues, China’s growing naval power, and security concerns in the region. That’s why experts say new kinds of maritime security dialogue and practical surveillance co-operation in the region are necessary.
A Defense Ministry spokesman also confirmed on Thursday that Chinese and Russian naval forces will hold “Joint Sea-2014” drills from May to June.
The maritime exercise has become an institutionalized program in bilateral military exchanges after the two navies conducted joint drills in 2012 and 2013, said Yang Yujun. Yang said detailed arrangements for the drills are still under discussion.
At the invitation of the Russian armed forces, China will also participate in the second Tank Biathlon Championships, added Yang.
The championships, invented by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last year, are scheduled to run from July 26 to August 16 at the Alabino firing range in the Moscow region, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, China and India have agreed to hold a joint army training exercise named “Hand-in-Hand 2014,” and to organise joint navy training in due time.
For more insight on China’s military, we are joined by Zhang Junshe, senior captain and vice president of China’s Naval Research Institute, for more background about China’s navy and the exercises.