The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) told China’s state TV station, CCTV, that it will conduct combat exercises in the South China Sea in the coming days, without specifying the exact time or location.
The PLAN’s staff department claimed that the training is “a routine part of the Navy’s annual training plan and is intended to boost the troops’ combat capability.”
Although the staff department added that the training “doesn’t target any particular country,” the announcement came on the same day the U.S. warship USS Mustin passed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea.
According to Reuters, the USS Mustin “traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations.” A spokeswoman for U.S. Pacific Fleet added: “We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future.”
This “freedom of navigation operation” instantly triggered China’s harsh condemnation.
Communist China’s Defense Ministry released a strongly worded statement, in which spokesperson Ren Guoqiang referred to this U.S. operation as a “serious political and military provocation.”
Claiming that “China resolutely opposes such actions,” Ren warned the United States that such actions “could lead to misjudgment and even accidents” and “would only drive the Chinese military to continue to improve its defense capabilities.”
He also claimed that two Chinese vessels had intercepted the USS Mustin and warned it off.
On the next day, China’s Foreign Ministry posted another lengthy statement on its website, specifying that USS Mustin had entered into “the neighboring waters of relevant islands and reefs of China’s Nansha [Spratly] Islands.”
Fully in line with Ren’s stance, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused the United States of a laundry list of wrongdoings, including violating Chinese law and relevant international law, infringing upon China’s sovereignty, undermining peace, security, and order, putting in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands, and creating a serious political and military provocation.
“The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its national sovereignty and security and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Hua emphasized.
Soon after, China’s PLA Air Force (PLAAF) announced that it had “recently conducted a high-sea training mission in the West Pacific and a joint combat patrol mission in the South China Sea.”
Without revealing when the exercises took place, Shen Jinke, spokesperson for the PLAAF, said one team, including H-6K bombers and Su-30 fighters, conducted a real combat training mission in the West Pacific via the Miyako Strait — a channel located between two Japanese islands and close to Taiwan — and another team, including H-6K bombers and Su-35 fighter jets, carried out a joint combat patrol mission in the South China Sea.
Notably, the tone of the PLA Air Force’s announcement was significantly stronger than that of the PLA Navy.
The PLAAF repeatedly emphasized in the announcement that such air drills are the best preparation for war and noted that Chinese pilots have the spirit to die for a war.
For an overview of the issues in the South China Sea, watch the video below.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk