The guided-missile destroyer Hohhot (Hull 161) attached to a destroyer flotilla with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command steams in waters of the South China Sea during a maritime training exercise in Mid-July, 2019. Photo: China Military
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy conducted combat-oriented drills featuring surface vessels, submarines and fighter jets in the South China Sea in late March, a month in which the US frequently sent warships and warplanes to intrude the waters.
Experts said on Thursday the drills showed the Chinese PLA Navy can effectively control and safeguard the waters as it continues to enhance its combat capabilities.
A naval base under the PLA Southern Theater Command organized in late March fleet training drills using combat scenarios in the South China Sea, according to a statement the PLA Southern Theater Command released on Wednesday.
Featuring surface vessels, submarines and fighter jets, the live-fire drills tested more than 20 subjects, including anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine, land attacks, maritime replenishment, fleet navigation and wartime political work, the statement said.
The drills demonstrated a new characteristic of the PLA Navy in the South China Sea: multidimensional, with warships, submarines and warplanes coordinating, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
These tactics will help the PLA Navy effectively control and safeguard related waters, islands and reefs, as the Chinese military’s combat capability to defend the South China Sea keeps rising, Wei said.
The drills came after the US military frequently sent warships and warplanes into the South China Sea recently. A US destroyer passed through China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands on March 10, and the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier strike group and the America amphibious assault ship expeditionary strike group conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea on March 15.
After the novel coronavirus epidemic broke out on the Theodore Roosevelt, the US again sent a P-3C patrol aircraft to the region on Tuesday, China Central Television reported on Wednesday, citing foreign reports.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has significantly lowered the US Navy’s warship deployment capability in the Asia-Pacific region, and an increase in warplane deployment was expected, so it can maintain its presence while also gaining related intelligence, Wei said.
With the drills, the Chinese military showed that it is capable of driving intruders and unfriendly priers away, he said.
When asked about frequent US military activities in the South China Sea, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said at a regular press conference on March 26 that the US actions have threatened the security of the littoral countries in the region and undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The Chinese troops will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and security, Ren said.