China car­ries out 1st air force drills in ‘off­shore’ west­ern Pa­cific Ocean

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

China’s air force has car­ried out its first ever mil­i­tary drill over the west­ern Pa­cific Ocean, state me­dia said, high­light­ing Bei­jing’s grow­ing mil­i­tary reach.

Sev­eral air­craft from China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army ( PLA) on Mon­day flew over the ocean via the Bashi Chan­nel, which runs be­tween Tai­wan and the Philip­pines, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency said.

“This is the first time that the PLA Air Force con­ducted such drills in an airspace far off­shore from Chi­nese coast­lines,” Xin­hua cited army spokesman Shen Jinke as say­ing.

The drill aimed to “level up the PLA Air Force’s mo­bil­ity and com­bat­ive­ness” over the sea,” Xin­hua re­ported.

Ter­ri­to­rial ten­sions have in­creased in re­cent years be­tween Bei­jing and its neigh­bors around the South China Sea — which it claims al­most in its en­tirety.

Bei­jing has also been build­ing up its mil­i­tary reach in re­cent years, with its first air­craft car­rier go­ing into ser­vice in 2012.

China an­nounced an “Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone” ( ADIZ) over the East China Sea in 2013, spark­ing con­dem­na­tion from Ja­pan and the United States.

Ja­panese me­dia have re­ported that China is con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar zone over the South China Sea, which would be likely to fur­ther fan ten­sions in the re­gion.

“high

China has i ncreased its mil­i­tary bud­get by dou­ble digit amounts for sev­eral decades, but says the spend­ing is purely de­fen­sive and not aimed at other coun­tries.

Sev­eral South East Asian na­tions as well as Ja­pan have boosted their de­fense bud­gets and ties with the U. S., in moves widely seen as re­flect­ing fears about China.

The Bashi chan­nel is a wa­ter­way be­tween the Philip­pines’ north­ern­most prov­ince of Batanes and Tai­wan’s Or­chid Is­land. Its own­er­ship is dis­puted.

“The drill is not tar­geted at any cer­tain coun­try or tar­gets and car­ries no threat against other coun­tries and re­gions,” Xin­hua cited Shen as say­ing.

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