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Talk of the Day -- China stages massive-scale navy drill

2011/06/13 23:34:57

A local daily reported Monday that China's East China Sea Fleethas been conducting an unprecedentedly large-scale military exercisein the West Pacific Ocean off Taiwan's eastern coast since last week.

From June 8 through June 9 alone, 11 warships, including threeRussian-built Modern-class destroyers, sailed past the Ryukyu Islandsin three groups, the China Times reported.

The drill, reportedly the largest ever staged by the Chinese navyin recent memory in terms of the fleet's scale and combat power, hasdrawn grave concern from the United States and Japan.The following is an excerpt of the China Times report:

As China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) dispatched a submarinerescue vessel for the first time to join the exercise, Taiwan'smilitary authorities said several PLA submarines were probably alsomobilized to take part in the training operations.

Military sources said they were also assessing the possibility ofa Chinese submarine actually having been lost. If the drill wasreally designed for submarine rescue training, the Chinese fleetseemingly did not need to travel that far into the Pacific Ocean, thesources said.

All of the PLA's four Modern-class destroyers have been deployedin its East China Sea Fleet. Three of them -- the 136 Hangzhou, 137Fuzhou and the most advanced 956EM 138 Taizhou -- took part in theongoing drill.

"It was rare in PLA history that three such high-performancewarships have been mobilized simultaneously in a single trainingexercise," one military official said.

The drill has drawn considerable concern from the U.S. becauseModern-class destroyers are equipped with aircraft carrier-killingSS-N-22 supersonic anti-ship missiles, which pose a threat to theU.S. aircraft carrier battle groups.

Moreover, the PLA warships have unusually sailed to the WestPacific Ocean, which is a traditional training ground for U.S. andJapanese naval forces.

Japanese self-defense authorities deliberately exposed the PLAtraining drill.

Taiwan's military and intelligence authorities are also closelymonitoring the event. They also forecast that some of the PLAwarships will detour southward to pass Taiwan and sail to the SouthChina Sea after completing their current exercise in the PacificOcean.

With China's naval force extending its reach to the Pacific Oceanand its first aircraft carrier battle group to be commissioned soon,the U.S.' "first island chain" offshore defense line is falling, andTaiwan's eastern coast is also threatened.

To cope with the situation, military sources said, Taiwan'smilitary has developed the mobile Hsiungfeng III supersonicland-to-ship missiles.

Moreover, the air force and navy are also studying new defensestrategies and tactics to counter the threat of China's aircraftcarrier battle group.

Military officials said they believe a major goal behind thePLA's naval drills is to prevent American and Japanese forces fromintervening to help combat a Chinese action against Taiwan.

Since 2002 when the PLA's new warships, including Harbin, sailedpast Taiwan's eastern coast for the first time, the officials said,Taiwan's military has gradually strengthened its air and navaldefense in eastern Taiwan. (June 13, 2011).

(By Sofia Wu)
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