Chinese soldiers and Pakistani commandos shout "Long Live China, Long Live Pakistan" as they wrap up their two-week military exercise in Jhelum, Pakistan on Thursday. Photo: AFP
China on Wednesday announced a second naval drill in the western Pacific this year, days after US President Barack Obama announced an expanded military presence in the region.
"A fleet of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will go for training in the western Pacific in late November," the Ministry of National Defense announced.
"This annual regular training is a routine arrangement, not directed toward any particular country or target," the statement said. "China's lawful rights, including free navigation in relevant waters, should not receive any barriers."
The statement did not reveal the location of the drill, nor the vessels to be used.
Japan's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that a total of six Chinese ships, including one destroyer and a supply ship, crossed into the Pacific between two major Okinawa Prefecture islands in southern Japan early Tuesday.
The ministry said it had dispatched aircraft and ships to "closely monitor" the drill.
Li Jie, a senior captain at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times that the drill was scheduled at the beginning of the year.
"It is mainly to train projects in marine supply, antisubmarine and communications so as to improve naval maneuverability and enhance strategic and technological competence. It has no other intention, and concerns from other countries are completely unwarranted," Li said.
Peng Guangqian, a military expert at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, echoed Li's words by saying, "The naval drill is aimed more at testing the capability and performance of the third-generation naval equipment under complicated weather conditions on the high seas."
"Only on-the-spot practice can reveal problems that could occur in real battles. Many other countries often conduct similar drills," Peng said.
Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military expert, said that some countries exaggerate China's naval exercises for their own political purposes.
"Pressed by domestic political demand, some countries magnify China's moves, especially those related to the South China Sea and the East China Sea," Song told the Global Times.
But at the same time, Song said there is still a long way for China's naval development to go as it is not competent enough to protect some of the country's activities and interests in the region.
The drill came shortly after Obama wrapped up an Asian tour in which he attended the East Asia Summit and confronted Chinese officials over the South China Sea issue, in spite of Beijing's firm opposition.
Obama also announced the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia by 2016 and tighten air force cooperation.
Noting that China was "entitled to exercise their military in ways they deem fit," Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday the US had no problem with the naval drill.
In June, the PLA Navy sent 11 vessels to the same area for a military drill including two submarines, a rescue ship and three destroyers.
In August, China conducted the initial trial of its first aircraft carrier, refitted from an old cruise bought from Ukraine.
In its annual report on the Chinese military, the Pentagon once again amped up the "China threat" theory, claiming that Beijing has developed up to 12,000 ballistic missiles and other long-range anti-ship missiles.
The Tokyo-based Diplomat magazine said in an opinion piece entitled "Yes, China Could Have a Global Navy" that the PLA navy should be able to "enclose much of the western Pacific and the South China Sea within a zone of Chinese maritime supremacy" by 2020 and its fleet "would commence global operations by 2050."
Separately, China and Japan pledged Wednesday to boost political trust during Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba's visit to Beijing.
"The just-concluded East Asia Summit has demonstrated a strong trend of forging solidarity, development and cooperation within the region," Premier Wen Jiabao told Gemba.
Gemba was in Beijing to pave the way for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's planned visit to China in December.
If his trip is made, Noda will be the first Japanese prime minister to visit China since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.
Zhu Shanshan, Ling Yuhuan and agencies contributed to this story