China's Navy Tests 'Maritime Combat Ability' in the South China Sea
The PLAN frigate Yueyang during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014.

China's Navy Tests 'Maritime Combat Ability' in the South China Sea


The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted naval drills that included live firing drills in order to boost its “maritime combat ability” in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Xinhua reports.

According to PLAN spokesperson Liang Yang the naval drills are part of an annually held exercise and in line with international law. Consequently, he urged observers not to indulge in “excessive interpretations” of the military maneuvers:

Holding sea drills is a common practice for navies with various countries. The annual drill by the Chinese navy aims to test the troops’ real combat abilities, boost their maneuvrability, search and rescue power and the abilities to fulfill diversified military missions.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Citing PLAN sources, Xinhua stated that the exercise involved over 100 ships, dozens of aircraft and several battalions of the Second Artillery Corps – the unit responsible for most of China’s conventional and nuclear ballistic missiles and land-attack cruise missiles.

Additionally, navy sources told Xinhua of an unknown number of information warfare troops participating in the drills. “[A]ll sorts of information technology tactics” were used to identify air and sea targets in real time, Reuters reports, citing information from China Military Online.

The report also stressed that one of the principal objectives of the naval drill was to integrate information warfare systems with air and naval forces noting that the exercise was conducted “in a complex electromagnetic environment.”

In addition, China Military Online emphasized that Chinese forces made “new breakthroughs” in boosting its anti-submarine warfare and air defense capabilities, as well as defending against anti-ship missiles with surface warships.

“Dozens of missiles and torpedoes and thousands of shells and jamming bombs were fired during the exercise,” Xinhua claims.

PLAN spokesperson Liang Yang also mentioned the political rationale behind the recent drills:

Some neighboring countries have long been illegally occupying some of the islands, building facilities there such as airports and even deploying heavy offensive weapons. 

The Philippines, one of the countries at loggerheads with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, appeared to take Beijing’s recent saber-rattling calmly.

Colonel Restituto Padilla, a spokesmen for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said:

Any kind of military exercise is always subject to the interpretation of an outsider, so an outsider who is biased against that country can initiate negative comments, but from our perspective, that being their right, they can do that as long as they don’t intrude into others’ (territory).

However, he did urge China to be more transparent when it comes to conducting future military maneuvers:

 There are certain activities that may need to be open for engagement with all other countries. We are hoping that other nations, China included, will be as transparent as anyone has been so that there are better opportunities for discussion and dialogue instead of no connection at all (…)From an international perspective, transparency is about saying and indicating that what we are doing is aboveboard and that we are not targeting or threatening anyone. In the case of China, everybody in the region, the United States included, is encouraging them to be transparent so that all of their motives, all of their activities will not be questioned.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief