A FLURRY of fresh military exercises is highlighting rising tensions in the Asia Pacific, with China and Russia today joining forces to practice seizing islands and hunting submarines.
A ‘rapid deployment’ exercise yesterday saw bombers, fighters and supporting aircraft surge past the Philippines and Taiwan and deep into the west Pacific.
China’s military has stated such ‘blue water’ exercises will ‘be normalised’ as part of future weapons testing and training programs.
But the United States appears to be responding in kind: News reports out of India state Washington and New Delhi will soon be engaging in joint army exercises barely 100km from India’s border with China.
Beijing has laid claim to the bulk of the South China Sea, despite competing claims from adjoining nations including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
It has also been aggressively promoting a “One Belt, One Road” initiative which essentially sees the restoration of ancient “Silk Road” trade routes with the Middle East via Pakistan and the Indian Ocean.
ISLAND CAMPAIGNThe eight day naval drill kicked off Monday in the South China Sea off China’s Guangdong province.
Observers are watching closely exactly how far into disputed territorial waters “Joint Sea 2016” will take place, with its mixture of surface warships, submarines, aircraft, helicopters and marines.
A Chinese navy statement released at the weekend said the exercise would focus on rescue operations, as well as anti-submarine operations and “island seizing”.
Chinese and Russian marines are expected to take part in live-fire drills emulating beach landing operations.
It’s the largest joint operation ever conducted by the two navies, the statement says.
Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian naval detachment “consisting of the big antisubmarine ships Admiral Tributs and Admiral Vinogradov, the big amphibious ship Peresvet, the sea towboat Alatau, and the tanker Pechenga”.
“From September 11 through to September 19, the ship crew will take part in the Joint Sea 2016 war-games of the Chinese Naval Force that will be held on the coast and in the water area of the South China Sea,” TASS reported a naval press officer as saying.
Activities are said to include “anti-subversion,, antisubmarine, anti-aircraft, and anti-ship defence and have done preparatory artillery firing at aerial and sea-based targets.”
Russia has backed Beijing’s recent rejection of an international court of arbitration ruling which found its claims to have historical rights to several contested shoals and reefs as false.
Beijing’s flexing of military muscles is not being limited to the naval exercises with Russia, however.
On Monday it sent a flight of H6K nuclear-capable bombers and Su-30MKK fighters through the channel between the Philippines and Taiwan and deep into the western Pacific.
A Chinese news agency has reported a Chinese Air Force colonel as saying the formation of fighters, bombers, tanker and AWACS aircraft passed through the Bashi Channel for ‘blue water’ training “to enhance the ability to safeguard national sovereignty, to defend national security, peace and development.”
The Courier Mail Brisbane