China prepares for ‘unexpected clashes’ by intensifying exercises in South China Sea

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BEIJING – Military personnel from the Chinese People’s Army stepped up exercises in the South China Sea in preparation for “unexpected clashes,” according to the PLA Daily military newspaper.

According to the military spokesman, naval aviation units under the Southern Operations Theater Command completed one of their longest early warning exercises, in which more than 10 different types of radio signals were identified as “enemies.”

“Unlike early warning training last year, these exercises lasted longer and were put into confrontational mode right from the start, with a special emphasis on night training,” said Yan Liang, commander of a military division, according to the newspaper.

[This type of training] constantly defies the limits of our personnel and equipment and helps strengthen the army’s emergency combat capabilities, the South China Morning Post explained.

The maneuvers, carried out in mid-November, involved two groups of warplanes. The first group shared information with the second group, which in turn was sent to search and gather information about a target group at sea, the diary reveals.

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An anonymous officer in the same division reported that the Chinese Air Force shifted its focus from passive to proactive. “Now the words ‘difficulty’ and ‘intelligence’ have become more and more frequent in our exercises […] we have made detailed plans to avoid risks and dangers in each training,” said the official.

China claims most of the South China Sea , a resource-rich waterway that is also contested by several neighboring countries.

The United States conducted at least 85 joint military exercises with its allies in the Indo-Pacific region in 2019 to curb the rise of Beijing, particularly in the South China Sea, according to the South Sea Strategic Survey Initiative, a think tank affiliated with Peking University.

A spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warned that US “provocations” in the South China Sea could result in “unexpected incidents,” back in August.

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