Wednesday, August 4, 2010

China Launches More Large-Scale Military Exercises

China launched large-scale air defense exercises on Aug. 3 - the latest in a series of drills carried out amid U.S. concerns about Beijing's increasing military assertiveness.

More than 10,000 defense personnel and seven different types of military aircraft are taking part in the drills in the eastern province of Shandong and the central province of Henan, the official China News Service said.

The exercises, codenamed "Vanguard 2010," will involve emergency evacuation, war planning, and reconnaissance and early warning, the report said. They are slated to last five days.

The exercises - aimed at ensuring preparedness for the defense of Beijing in a potential air raid - will include one live-fire drill and will take place in real-time war conditions without any previous rehearsal, according to the report.

The exercises come hot on the heels of large naval and air drills held on China's southeast coast last week, just as South Korea and the U.S. conducted their own naval exercises in the region, opposed by Beijing.

A large group of submarines and warships from the People's Liberation Army Navy fired guided missiles in the South China Sea and tested anti-missile air defense systems.

The U.S. and China's neighbors have expressed concerns about what is perceived as Beijing's increasing military assertiveness.

In recent years Beijing has poured money into its People's Liberation Army, with a string of big-budget increases that have funded the development of a host of advanced missiles, jet fighters and other weaponry.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, said in July that China's military had made "a fairly significant investment in high-end equipment" including satellites, aircraft and anti-ship missiles.

He called the move a "strategic shift, where they are moving from a focus on their ground forces to focus on their navy, and their maritime forces and their air force," adding he was "concerned."

China has also become increasingly vocal about territorial claims such as those in the South China Sea and over Taiwan, which it views as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

U.S. officials worry that Beijing's more assertive stance in the Pacific Ocean could undercut America's long-dominant naval power in Asia.

China maintains that its army build-up is purely for national defense and poses no threat to other countries.

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