China’s People’s Liberation Army holds drills in Tibetan plateau
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has held “long-range precision” strike drills on the Tibetan plateau bordering India and flown latest jet bombers over the South China Sea (SCS) amid ongoing border friction with New Delhi and rising tension with the US over disputes with littoral countries in SCS region, the Chinese defence ministry said on Thursday.
The Tibet military region, which borders India and is under the western theatre command in-charge of the boundary with India, has taken part in drills testing the PLA troops’ and armaments’ “long-range precision strikes”, defence ministry spokesperson, Ren Guoqiang said at the ministry briefing on Thursday.
The exercise tested PLA’s artillery both at day and night, Ren said, according to reports on the briefing published in state media.
“Recently, the Tibet Military Region has organised multiple types of artillery, day and night fire strike drills and artillery fire assault drills in high altitude areas, mainly to test the troops’ long-range precision strikes and fire assault capabilities in a plateau environment,” Ren said.
“The above exercises are part of the annual training plan and are not targeted at any specific country,” Ren added without elaborating.
The drills were held amid the ongoing border tension with India along the line of actual control (LAC) in Ladakh even as both sides are involved in intensive negotiation to disengage troops and ease the situation.
Several rounds of diplomatic and military talks have been held between the two countries but the disengagement is yet to be completed.
Separately, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin on Thursday sidestepped a question on Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that those who want to threaten India’s territorial integrity should be worried about new Rafale fighter jets bought by India from France.
When asked to comment on it, Wang said: “We hope the Indian side’s relevant remarks will be conducive to regional peace and stability”.
Ren, the defence ministry spokesperson, also said Thursday that the PLA’s naval aviation unit of the Southern Theatre Command conducted “high-intensity exercises” in the SCS with new bombers to improve pilots’ combat techniques and overall all-weather fighting capability of the units.
The units used planes such as H-6G and H-6J bombers, as well as other new war planes, Ren said
The “high-intensity exercises” featured drills such as taking off during day and night settings, long distance assault, and attacking maritime surface targets, he said.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich SCS, which is also a major trade route. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
The US wants to portray itself as “referee” over the SCS issue but is actually the one that disturbs regional peace, destroys regional cooperation and sows discord among regional countries, Ren said, in response to a US State Department release that accused China of causing instability in the region by conducting military drills in the Xisha Islands.
The US according to a Chinese academic think tank has conducted six Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) so far this year, compared with four times in 2017, six times in 2018 and eight times in 2019, Wang Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS), writing for the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative said.
In addition, the U.S. military has conducted nearly 2,000 close-in reconnaissance operations on China from the air this year.
According to the think tank, US air force E-8C surveillance planes have come within 185km or less of the southeast coast of Guangdong province on four separate occasions in the past week.
Last Sunday, an US anti-submarine warplane came within 100 km from Shanghai in eastern China, the closest that an American fighter aircraft has come close to the Chinese east coast shoreline in recent years.