China’s aircraft carrier poised to sail further

By Li Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/15 18:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China's aircraft carrier Liaoning has sailed through the first island chain for the first time in late December, signaling that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's exercises in the West Pacific Ocean are entering into a normalization stage. The breakthrough, however, is considered as just the beginning stage of the PLA Navy's sea operation in the region as more fleets of battleships led by carriers will sail into waters near and far in the future.

The military drills, including going through the first island chain, are part of the PLA Navy's annual schedule and follow the routine of the navy's exercises. The move was accompanied by six H-6 bombers flying over the island chain.

Such intensive exercises have been rarely observed before. Therefore, it is understandable that countries like the US, Japan and South Korea are wary of China's military operations in the region, especially after their attempt to contain China's military forces within the first island chain failed.

Japan and the US will continue hyping up the so-called China threat theory based on Liaoning's operations, so as to stir up the public opinion at home and abroad, thereby, allowing them to prepare military expansion. For instance, the Abe administration is constantly looking for an excuse for his domestic constitutional amendment.

With the improvement in training, better equipment and the growing needs to better protect China's maritime interests, the Chinese Navy will go further into the seas. The fleets of battleships are supposed to be heading to the middle and far seas rather than staying in the offshore area.

Once China has its second aircraft carrier, the PLA will be tasked to equip and program more advanced fleets while military personnel be demanded to perform more efficiently in military drills. At that time, the PLA Navy's breakthrough of the second island chain could be assured. The military exercises of the carrier-led fleet of battleships over the past years have gradually matured and will be more organized in the future.

After President-elect Donald Trump takes office, the US will be expanding its military forces including its nuclear weapons capacity. China needs to be aware of this and should make the necessary improvements to its nuclear weaponry such as the nuclear-powered submarines and prepare for redeployment in the wake of Pentagon's new policy.

China will stick to its policy of "not-first-use of nuclear weapons" and "no strikes of non-nuclear countries." But the country has to try as much as possible to increase its nuclear weapons capacity, especially the level of the weapons' stealth and the capacity of the second strike.

In response to the threatening military presence in the South China Sea, like the US deployment of aircraft carriers, China has to develop its own forces. But that doesn't mean China has to develop carriers to confront the US.

China should develop an asymmetric system where weapons like ballistic missile have higher potential to win with lower cost. That is to say, the PLA should adopt unparalleled means to upgrade military power and play to its own advantages.

The author is a Beijing-based naval expert.


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