There is the N Korea dispute, Syria, assasinations, hybrid war, etc. Will level heads prevail or is it already too late to avert a major war?
Beijing launches ‘monthly’ South China Sea combat exercises
THE South China Sea is rapidly approaching boiling point, again, with an enormous escalation in Chinese military manoeuvres.
News Corp Australia NetworkMARCH 27, 20184:42PM
THE South China Sea is again a flashpoint of international tensions.
Last week, the United States challenged China’s claims to its illegal artificial islands. Beijing reacted with outrage.
This week China is itself sending a massive naval force — believed centred on its aircraft carrier Liaoning — into the South China Sea for large-scale war-games. Taiwan has already scrambled jets to intercept bombers coming close to its borders.
Adding to the air of tension, US forces are conducting live-fire exercises on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and Russia has sent combat jets to another contested island north of Japan.
Amid it all, Britain may be sailing into hot water.
For the first time in recent years, it’s taken interest in Asian affairs. So it’s sent a frigate to visit Australia and the US naval base at Guam. It’s also expected to challenge China’s arbitrary territorial claims.
Beijing is unlikely to be pleased at the presence of such an old imperial power.
And it is becoming even more bellicose in asserting its claims over almost all of the strategic waterway — despite the legitimate claims of nations including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.
China's long-range fighter jets escort a H-6K bomber during operations in the Western Pacific and South China Sea.
‘PREPARING FOR WAR’
China’s state-run Global Times announced on Sunday night that it has begun military manoeuvres in the South China Sea and Western Pacific.
It also revealed a major increase in the tempo in preparations for war.
“The 2018 drills will be routine and will be held every month, unlike in previous years,” military analyst Song Zhongping said.
The announcement of regular exercises comes after President-for-life Xi Jinping gave a fiery nationalist speech last week when he told of his determination to fight a “bloody battle” against China’s enemies.
Since then, Japan and Taiwan have observed flights of nuclear-capable H-6K bombers escorted by Su-30 and Su-35 fighters pushing through narrow flight corridors and circling disputed territories.
China’s state media revealed the H-6K long-range strategic bombers were practising “stand-off” strike missions. This involved carrying, and simulating attacks with, the DH-20 air-to-ground cruise missile which has the capability of striking targets on Guam and Australia.
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The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) stated on Chinese social media service Weibo that the strike force flights were intended to “enhance combat-winning capabilities”.
“As a strategic force, the air force has extended its activities from inland to the deep ocean ... The air force has become a key force in shaping situations, controlling crises, constraining wars and winning battles,” it wrote.
China's training aircraft carrier Liaoning is surrounded by her protective escorts in an earlier exercise.Source:Supplied
SOUTH CHINA SEA CHANGE
The latest Chinese naval drill began just one day after the USS Mustin passed within 22km of the illegal artificial island of Meiji (Mischief) Reef in the Nansha Islands. Beijing reacted by calling this a serious “military provocation”.
Such tests of territorial boundaries “harm military relations between the two countries, causing close encounters between the countries’ air forces and navies, which could lead to misjudgment and even accidents,” Beijing’s Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.
But the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is quoted as saying its expanded spring drills did not target any country.
“The South China Sea and East China Sea will be primary battlegrounds,” Song told the Global Times. “The PLA is committed to be battle-ready through simulated combat training.”
“They are focused on enhancing China’s capability to safeguard the country’s sovereignty,” added maritime border expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Wang Xiaopeng.
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While Beijing has not mentioned the presence of its only operational aircraft carrier, Liaoning, Taiwan last week observed it moving into the South China Sea.
Beijing’s media has been emphasising the war-games will test ‘high end’ military equipment operating in a “complicated’ battlefield environment involving ‘electronic warfare” scenarios.
British Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland arriving in Sydney on Friday, March 9. It is expected to pass through the South China Sea in coming days. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
BRITANNIA RULES THE WAVES?
Into the fray is sailing a British anti-submarine frigate, HMS Sutherland.
It’s the first British activity in the area since 2014.
UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson indicated last month that the warship would make a diplomatic and international law point by passing through South China Seas contested waters during March.
“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea and making it clear our Navy has a right to do that,” he told The Australian.
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Beijing reacted with a warning not to ‘stir up trouble’.
China has been actively fortifying the artificial islands it has constructed on top of what were previously reefs, despite its claims of territorial soverigny being rejected by an international court of arbitration.
It claims it has sole territorial control out to the international standard 12 nautical miles (22km) from each of these islands. But the international court refused to recognise artificial expansion of partially submerged outcrops and reefs form a basis for territorial sovereignty.
Russian Su-35 fighter jets have been sent to disputed islands to the north of Japan for the first time.Source:Supplied
On the boundaries of the disputed East China Sea, over which China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all lay claim, the United States is conducting its largest comprehensive live-fire exercise in almost a decade.
On the island of Okinawa, US Army units at all levels — including cooks, lawyers and drivers — picked up their guns and practised using them on simulated battlefields.
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“It gets us prepared for the worst,” a US army paralegal specialist involved in the exercise told US Army media. “Not to say the worst is coming, but just for anything that may happen in the long run. At least we’ll know what to do.”
The Japanese island of Okinawa is close to the Senkaku Islands. Bordering the East China Sea and Taiwan, Chinese fishing vessels and coast guard ships regularly breach their international boundaries, claiming they are traditionally Chinese territory.
Taiwan, which has been the focus of renewed hostile rhetoric from Beijing in recent weeks, has also ordered its warships and aircraft to ‘shadow’ Chinese activities on its borders.
The last remaining outpost of the pre-Chinese civil war Republican government has again been warned against making any separatist moves.
Beijing regards Taiwan as its own. Taiwan’s government is a renegade province, it insists. And efforts by US President Donald Trump to strengthen ties with Taiwan are seen as hostile.
Beijing expressed outrage at a law recently passed by Trump intended to encourage future high-level contact between his country and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Moscow has reportedly for the first time sent two advanced Su35 fighter jets to the island of Etorofu/Iturup to the north of Japan. It is one of a group of islands seized from Japan by Russia in the closing days of World War II.
In February, Moscow declared it intended to establish a permanent military base on the island, despite Tokyo’s protests.