Beijing : The Chinese navy kicked off 10-day military exercises in the disputed South China Sea amid heightened tensions in the region, especially with the US.
Playing down the significance of the exercises, the Chinese military said the drills, started yesterday in the east of Hainan Province, are not directed against neighbours.
“The drills are regular military exercises scheduled in the annual plan, without targeting any other country,” the Ministry of National Defence said.
“Unlike US military forces that can be trained in wars, Chinese navy strength, which lags behind ground forces, needs to be enhanced via regular drills,” Maj Gen Xu Guangyu, senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the state-run Global Times.
The drills will allow the Chinese navy to share more international responsibilities with the US when providing maritime security, especially since the US has slammed China for being a “free-rider” in international issues for three decades, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan strongly contest China’s claims of sovereignty on almost all of South China Sea.
Maritime tensions went up high in the region after the US started backing the five nations to stand up to China’s claims.
K J M Varma