PLA conducts maritime attack drills, deploys warplanes in South China Sea amid US aggression

By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/20 18:38:40

A J-11 fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command takes off for another sortie during a real combat flight training exercise on March 10, 2020. ( by Fu Gan)

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently conducted maritime target attack drills in the South China Sea and deployed warplanes in an island in the region at a time when the US aggressively sent warplanes for close-up reconnaissance and warships including aircraft carriers for exercises and operations in the name of "freedom of navigation."

Facing continuous military provocations by the US, which is the real pusher of militarization in the South China Sea, the PLA could be forced to increase its presence with routine deployments and exercises to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, analysts said on Monday.

A brigade under the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy aviation forces based in South China's Hainan Province held live-fire maritime target attack drills with JH-7 fighter bombers from Wednesday to Thursday, China National Radio (CNR) reported on Sunday. 

Citing a commercial satellite image, Forbes reported on Friday that the PLA had deployed at least four J-11B fighter jets to Yongxing Island of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea by Wednesday.

Since July, the US military has been making frequent provocations in the South China Sea. On two occasions in two weeks, it sent two aircraft carriers to the region for drills. A US warship trespassed into waters off the Nansha Islands on July 14, and multiple US reconnaissance aircraft also conducted frequent close-up reconnaissance operations on China's southern coast, according to reports.

These incidents, taking place thousands of miles away from the US and on China's doorstep, have again proven that the US is the real pusher of militarization in the South China Sea, and China is forced to take countermeasures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, a Chinese military expert who asked not to be identified told the Global Times on Monday.

PLA drills in the South China Sea take place frequently, and it is also not the first time the PLA has deployed warplanes in South China Sea islands, observers noted.

According to foreign satellite images cited by media, the PLA deployed KJ-500 airborne early warning and control system and Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft on the Yongshu Reef in May. In June 2019, J-10 fighter jets were also deployed to Yongxing Island.

Confirming the J-10 deployment in June 2019, Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said at a routine press conference that month that it is a legitimate right of sovereign countries to deploy facilities and conduct training on their own territories. The Chinese side's actions are lawful, reasonable and fair.

If US military provocations in the South China Sea persist, China could be left with no choice but to conduct more drills and deploy more warships and warplanes in the South China Sea, to the extent of setting up a possible air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the anonymous military expert said, noting that the J-11 has superior operational range, endurance and payload capacity to the J-10.

China should also not rush into announcing an ADIZ in the South China Sea, because it could hurt ASEAN members more than the US, consequently damaging ties between China and ASEAN members, and the US won't have many more practical new moves, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for the South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times in an interview earlier in July.

Posted in: MILITARY

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