China holds new naval exercises while Xi strengthens military rhetoric |...

China holds new naval exercises while Xi strengthens military rhetoric |...
China holds new naval exercises while Xi strengthens military rhetoric |...
China conducted new naval exercises on Wednesday, according to a report quoting maritime officials amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea and when President Xi Jinping urged the military to focus on war readiness and combat capabilities.

The state-owned Global Times quoted the country’s Maritime Safety Agency as saying that drilling was taking place in the Bohai Sea in northeast China from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday 10:00 p.m. – Wednesday 9:00 a.m. GMT).

It was unclear what specific naval maneuvers and hardware were involved in the one-day event, but Bohai was part of larger naval activities in September, which included live fire drills. At the time, China banned all non-military vessels in the areas where exercises were being conducted.

The previous Tuesday, Xi had inspected the elite Chinese Navy and Marine Corps stationed in Guangdong Province in the south. According to the state media, he called for a faster improvement in their combat skills “in order to forge a powerful force with combat-wise soldiers”.

The report said the inspection “sent a signal that China will accelerate its preparation for a possible military conflict” in several areas, including the controversial South China Sea and Taiwan, which Beijing claims.

Xi also urged the Chinese forces to maintain “a high level of readiness” and focus on “combat-oriented” and “force-on-force” training.

He added that China’s soldiers “should be able to react quickly and fight in multi-dimensional conditions.”

Escalating tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have increased in recent months, and China and the US are accusing each other of taking provocative steps.

The US recently accused Beijing of expanding its man-made islands in parts of the South China Sea and taking hostile steps towards Taiwan, a US ally.

Taiwan has come under increasing pressure from Beijing since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in 2016. The Air Force’s maneuvers have increased since it returned to office in a landslide in January.

In the past few weeks, China’s planes have sometimes crossed the delicate center line of the Taiwan Strait, which usually serves as an unofficial buffer zone.

The US also criticized China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province and Beijing’s newly-imposed Hong Kong national security law, which is a direct attack on the freedom of the territory’s residents.

For its part, China has accused the US of “fueling” the confrontation in the region by stationing several of its warships in its backyard and selling advanced military weapons to Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province.

On Wednesday, the Global Times accused the US of “gradually turning to Taiwan secession”.

China has also complained about US efforts to create what is known as an Indo-Pacific alliance, a NATO-like security partnership that threatens the stability of the region.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday that the nascent US-led partnership could mark “the beginning of a dangerous and slippery slope” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Wang also warned of “external disruption”, stressing that the region’s future “should be determined by the people in the region.”

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