Posts Tagged ‘Chinese navy ships’

China Navy Ships Depart for Joint Drills With Russia

September 14, 2017

BEIJING — Four Chinese navy ships have departed for joint drills with Russia in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the two militaries that could challenge the U.S. armed forces’ role in the Asia-Pacific.

A destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and submarine rescue ship departed Wednesday from the port of Qingdao, home to China’s north sea fleet, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The drills are being held in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Xinhua said.

The exercises are the second stage of an annual joint drill, the first part of which was held July 22-27 in the Baltic Sea — the first time the countries had exercised together in the northern European waterbody.

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Chinese and Russian destroyers take part in a previous joint exercise in 2014 / AP

Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the U.S. and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.

July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.

Both Russia and China say the exercises are not directed at any third parties.

The Chinese ships taking part in the exercises are among the country’s most advanced, components of a growing fleet that poses a significant challenge to the U.S. Navy’s traditional dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has long chafed at the American presence and is a strong critic of its alliances with Japan, Australia and other countries in the region.

China already has the world’s largest navy, with slightly over 300 vessels, compared to the U.S. Navy’s 277 “deployable battle force ships,” according to the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts it will have 313-342 warships by 2020.

While China’s ships are technologically inferior to those of the U.S. Navy, their sheer numbers allow China a significant presence on the open sea, institute professor Andrew S. Erickson wrote in a recent study.


Filipino officials: Chinese navy stalked Philippine area — Philippine Government not telling all they know?

August 22, 2017
 / 08:04 PM August 22, 2017

In this Friday, April 21, 2017 photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, two Filipino security officials said China has deployed its navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them in an emerging territorial issue that the government stated was quickly resolved. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines- China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said Tuesday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors’ friendlier ties.

Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.

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The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country’s territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has in recent days refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.

A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China “is concerned that we will build” structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.

A government security report seen by the AP says Chinese navy ships with bow numbers 504, 545 and 168, a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 46115, and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay. Its nearest sandbar is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu’s southwest coast, the report said.

Philippine troops and villagers based at Thitu call it Pag-asa -Tagalog for hope – while the Chinese call the island Zhongye Dao.

The Chinese military presence near Thitu sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island’s 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters.

“In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China,” Carpio said in a statement over the weekend.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have the constitutional duty to defend and protect Philippine territory.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” Carpio said. “If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty binds the allies to come to the aid of each other when attacked.

Cayetano, however, told reporters Tuesday that the issue has been diplomatically resolved and denied that China has invaded Sandy Cay.

“Let me assure you, there is no more problem in that area,” Cayetano told reporters, declining to provide details. “But it is not true that there was an attempt to invade or seize it.”

Much-friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing under Duterte have allowed both governments to manage their disputes better. “If our relationship with our neighbors isn’t this good, the situation in the West Philippine Sea will be much, much worse,” Cayetano said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Duterte told reporters over dinner late Monday that he has been assured by China’s ambassador in Manila, Zhao Jianhua, and the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures on Sandy Cay.

“They’re not invading,” ABS-CBN TV network quoted Duterte as saying. “They are just there but they are not claiming anything.”

One of the Philippine security officials said the military has been monitoring the Chinese presence at Sandy Cay but added it was difficult to check if Beijing’s ships were still there due to bad weather in the remote offshore region.

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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Some Philippine Leaders Herald a New Era of Cooperation with China, while Others Warn of a Buildup of Chinese Naval and Civilian Vessels

August 20, 2017

Satellite photograph showing Chinese ships near Thitu (Pag-asa) Island (Photo: AMTI)

The week began with signs that the détente between the Philippines and China was coming along smoothly. Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told a congressional hearing on Monday that China had promised to stop occupying new features in the South China Sea and to stop building new installations in the Scarborough Shoal. According to Lorenzana, the two countries had reached a “modus vivendi,” or a “way of getting along,” in the South China Sea that would involve an end of China’s building projects.

The next day, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told the Philippine House of Representatives that the government is considering working with China to develop petroleum resources in the disputed waters between the two countries. Cayetano said that the project, if confirmed, would not cede any Philippine territory or sovereignty to China – perhaps a response to earlier remarks by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio that an oil and gas joint venture in Philippine territory would endanger the country’s sovereignty. “I will assure you, any legal framework will conform with local laws and the Constitution,” Cayetano said.

But the very same day, Congressman Gary Alejano reported that a number of Chinese PLA Navy ships had been deployed near Thitu, or Pag-asa, Island, a large island in the Spratly Islands that the Philippines occupy. According to Alejano’s “military sources,” a pair of Chinese frigates, a coast guard ship, and some fishing ships affiliated with China’s maritime militia were located a few miles north of Thitu Island. In a press conference, the Congressman described the ships as “suspicious,” and said: “I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China.”

On Wednesday, Secretary Cayetano responded to Congressman Alejano’s report: he could not confirm the presence of the Chinese ships, but added that “[t]he presence of ships alone does not mean anything…the situation in the area is very stable.” Cayetano said that China was not an enemy and should not be treated as such. “It’s good we have people like Congressman Alejano who reminds us to monitor the situation,” he said. “But there’s a thin line between informing us and stirring up the situation.” Responding to Cayetano’s remarks, Alejano expressed dissatisfaction with Cayetano for “brushing aside the unusual and suspicious presence of several huge military and Chinese ships…in the vicinity of our largest island.”

Though neither Lorenzana or Cayetano confirmed the presence of the ships, Alejano released photographs of what he claimed were Chinese ships operating near Thitu Island.  The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released satellite images that seem to indicate that Chinese naval and civilian waters were indeed present in the area. According to AMTI’s report, “On that day, there were nine Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels visible near Thitu…with others possibly under cloud cover. It is impossible to know if any of those ships might be affiliated with the maritime militia, but at least two appear to be actively fishing…”  The report added that the flotilla’s presence was “highly provocative” and speculated that Beijing might have intended to “dissuade Manila from planned construction on Thitu.”

In Other News…

United States

On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrived in Beijing for talks with top Chinese military leaders.  At the opening of the dialogue, Gen. Dunford said that the two sides intended to discuss “difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspective,” but that they “shared a commitment to work through these difficulties.”

On Tuesday, Gen. Dunford met with PLA Gen. Fang Fenghui to sign an agreement announcing a new communication mechanism between the two militaries. Accordingto U.S. Joint Staff officials, the agreement would “enable us to communicate to reduce the risk of miscalculation” and to mitigate potential crises. The two sides agreed to work together to develop the framework, with the first meeting scheduled for November. Few details were released about how the mechanism would work or when it would be used, but both sides spoke of the need to develop trust and openness. Gen. Dunford said that crisis communications between the United States and China is critical, but that avoiding miscommunication was “the minimum standard.” Rather than simply working to avert a crisis, he said, “We should also try to see areas to cooperate.” Gen. Fang agreed, stating that the American and Chinese armies could work together to cooperate as partners.


Meanwhile, the United States was deepening its military ties with Japan as well. The two countries commenced a series of joint military operations on and around the Japanese island of Hokkaido on August 10. On Tuesday, the two countries’ air forces conducted drills near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan occupies but China and Taiwan claim. In a statement, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said, “These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”


The Deepsea Metro I, a drilling ship contracted by Vietnam’s PetroVietnam and the Spanish firm Repsol to drill for oil in disputed waters claimed by China, arrived near the Malaysian port of Labuan on Monday. The ship was last reported at the drilling site on July 30. Vietnam canceled its plans to explore for petroleum in the disputed waters under intense pressure from China. Gregory Polling, the director of the AMTI, arguedthat the departure of the drilling ship signaled that Vietnam was unable to stand up to China without support from the United States or the regional powers of the South China Sea.


Taiwan placed its military on high alert after the Chinese air force conducted operations around – and sometimes within – Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the weekend and on Monday. Taiwanese Defense Ministry Spokesman Chen Chung-ji stated, “Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or airspace or even engaging in hostility.” The drills included bombers and surveillance aircraft and marked the eighth time that Chinese military aircraft have trained near Taiwan since July.

Analysis, Commentary, and Additional Information

Mark Valencia argues in the South China Morning Post that China and the United States should develop guidelines for naval operations off of each other’s’ shores. According to Valencia, the two sides have reached a sort of settled pattern in which the United States conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in Chinese-claimed waters, and Beijing expresses disapproval. However, he says, this status quo is not stable. For example, if China tried to interfere with the American patrols, or if Japanese naval forces joined the U.S. Navy’s FONOPs, a conflict could easily break out. To avoid this outcome, Valencia argues that the two sides should work together to establish norms and rules governing how their navies will operate in contested waters.

Writing in The Diplomat, Tuan N. Pham claims that China’s aggressive naval and air operations in the South China Sea are increasingly at odds with its own interpretations of international maritime law. He points out that Beijing regularly claims that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights conducted by the United States and other countries in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are unlawful, while the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) increasingly conducts similar operations in other countries’ EEZs. Pham predicts that “[a]s the PLAN continues to operate in distant waters and in proximity to other nations’ coastlines, Beijing may have no choice but to eventually address the inconsistency between policy and operations — and either pragmatically adjust its standing policy or continue to assert its untenable authority to regulate military activities in its EEZ. The former is more likely, while the latter carries more risks in terms of the legal validity of its own maritime sovereignty claims, international credibility, and world standing.”

Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council and James Przystup of the National Defense University argue in Foreign Policy that American politicians and commentators overstate the importance of the South China Sea to America’s national interests. They argue that America’s interests in the South China Sea have always been limited to freedom of navigation and freedom of maritime commerce. On the other hand, “Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea is political and strategic in nature,” key to both the legitimacy of the Communist Party and China’s overall security. Manning and Przystup conclude that the United States should acknowledge that, due to this “asymmetry of respective Chinese and U.S. geopolitical interests,” it must accept a larger Chinese role in the South China Sea.

Water Wars is our weekly roundup of the latest news, analysis, and opinions related to ongoing tensions in the South and East China Seas. Please email Sarah Grant with breaking news, relevant documents, or corrections

China Builds First Overseas Military Outpost

August 19, 2016

Naval facility under construction in Djibouti shows Beijing’s ambitions to be a global maritime power and protect its expanding interests abroad

Beginning next year, the Chinese navy will start using a new outpost in Djibouti. The old port, above, will continue to be used by other foreign navies.
Beginning next year, the Chinese navy will start using a new outpost in Djibouti. The old port, above, will continue to be used by other foreign navies. PHOTO: JEREMY PAGE/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 19, 2016 12:04 p.m. ET
DORALEH, Djibouti—It was February this year when camel drivers first spotted the Chinese troops staking out a patch of coastal scrubland about 8 miles from the largest U.S. military base in Africa.

Chinese navy ships had visited this tiny East African nation before. They sometimes picked up supplies in the old French port, farther down the arid coast, during antipiracy patrols off Somalia.

This time, the Chinese military was here to stay. The camel herders watched as the troops secured a plot next to a construction site where a vast new bulk and container port is taking shape.


The 90-acre plot is where Beijing is building its first overseas military outpost—a historic step that marks a bold new phase in its evolution as a world power.

Due for completion next year, the naval outpost is expected to feature weapons stores, ship and helicopter maintenance facilities and possibly a small contingent of Chinese marines or special forces, according to foreign officers and experts monitoring its development. Its cluster of low-rise concrete buildings and shipping containers, some with Chinese flags, offers the most tangible sign yet of China’s strategy to extend its military reach across the Indian Ocean and beyond.

In doing so, China is accelerating its transformation from an isolationist, continental nation to a global maritime power, a move that could challenge Western security partnerships that have underpinned the world order since 1945.

Right now, only a handful of nations have bases beyond their borders. The U.S. has the most, in 42 foreign countries. Britain, France and Russia each have them in about a dozen countries and overseas territories.

While Chinese officials deny plans to build large U.S.-style bases and call the Djibouti outpost a “support facility,” they also talk openly about negotiating more overseas outposts where Chinese interests coalesce.

“Steadily advancing overseas base construction” is one of President Xi Jinping’s foreign-policy priorities, wrote Adm. Sun Jianguo, the deputy chief of the joint staff department and likely future naval chief, in a Communist Party magazine in April.


China’s missile destroyer Jinan entered the port of Salalah, Oman, last year.
China’s missile destroyer Jinan entered the port of Salalah, Oman, last year. PHOTO: ZENG TAO/XINHUA/ZUMA WIRE

The Pentagon has predicted China will establish several more outposts in the next decade. One likely spot is Oman’s port of Salalah, where Chinese navy ships often stop for rest and resupply, defense experts say. Other possibilities include the Seychelles and Pakistan’s port of Karachi.

Officials from those countries didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether bases might be built there, nor did China.

Mr. Xi’s rationale is that China needs to protect its expanding interests overseas, including stakes in Middle Eastern oil fields and a growing corps of Chinese expatriates. That also could embellish his image as a strong world leader, even as its economy slows.

On the other hand, Beijing risks getting sucked into violent entanglements, much as the U.S. and other powers have. Three Chinese peacekeepers have died in action in Africa since June, including two in nearby South Sudan, where China has oil investments.

While Western nations have encouraged Chinese involvement in peacekeeping and other multilateral missions, a long-term military presence in Djibouti, butting up against U.S. operations, opens a fresh arena of potential friction.

The U.S. in particular worries that sensitive U.S. defense technology would have to be removed if compromised by the kind of Chinese surveillance, including hacking, that has troubled U.S. officials elsewhere.

“China is coming very aggressively into the region,” said one senior Western officer tracking the Chinese activities. “What will be the results? I don’t know. We’re talking about China’s future as a world power.”

The U.S. base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, has about 4,000 troops and is used for Special Forces and drone operations against jihadist groups in the region. It abuts Djibouti’s main airport, and attack helicopters and other U.S. military aircraft are often seen by the runway.

U.S. and French military training taking place near Camp Lemonnier in 2013.
U.S. and French military training taking place near Camp Lemonnier in 2013. PHOTO: SGT CHAD THOMPSON/PLANET PIX/ZUMA WIRE

The U.S. doesn’t want Chinese military aircraft, including drones, flying near its facilities. There is already discomfort that China has provided Djibouti’s air force with a turboprop plane, serviced by Chinese personnel, which U.S. officers say has been seen landing at an airstrip used by U.S. drones. In July, Djibouti’s air force received another two light transport aircraft from China.

“We’re strictly reliant upon the Djiboutian government to make sure that anybody who might be adversarial are separated appropriately,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commander of U.S. forces in Djibouti.

A Pentagon official wouldn’t comment on Chinese surveillance but said that Washington and Beijing have regular talks about Africa, and that the U.S. partnership with Djibouti remains strong. Washington extended its Camp Lemonnier lease for 20 years in 2014, paying $70 million annually.

Djibouti’s foreign minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, said in an interview that while it isn’t in Djibouti’s interests to alienate Washington, his country is “positioning itself in this big design China is putting in place.” He pledged “to keep balance between those partners present here.”

China is also playing down tensions. The outpost “is in order to better uphold international responsibilities and duties, and to protect China’s legal interests,” the Defense Ministry said in a faxed statement. It pledged not to engage in military expansion.

Djibouti, a former French colony slightly smaller than Vermont, overlooks the Bab-el-Mandeb, a 20-mile-wide strait between Africa and the Arabian peninsula at the entrance to the Red Sea. Roughly 20% of the world’s trade and half of China’s oil imports pass through the nearby Gulf of Aden. Djibouti also provides an outlet for trade with landlocked Ethiopia and other parts of Africa’s interior.

The French kept a base after Djibouti’s independence in 1977. Djibouti also hosts German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese forces, mostly for antipiracy patrols. The U.S. military came in 2003 to support the war on terror and has since expanded its base to about 570 acres, with a $1.4 billion upgrade under way.

The multinational presence lends the torpid capital, Djibouti City, an air of cosmopolitan intrigue akin to Casablanca in the 1940s. A French-speaking local elite rubs shoulders with buzz-cut U.S. security contractors, white-uniformed European naval officers, traders, diplomats and spies.

They congregate in Western bars and cafes among crumbling Moorish-style mansions or in two luxury hotels, a Sheraton and a Kempinski, while locals seek refuge from searing heat at the Siesta Beach.

Despite a mostly Muslim population, alcohol is allowed and women enjoy relative freedom. President Ismail Omar Guelleh won a fourth term in April amid opposition allegations he has stifled many political freedoms. Outside the capital, Djibouti is mostly desert and poor.

China’s navy conducted its first joint maritime exercises with Djibouti last year and has said its new outpost will be largely to support Chinese forces on missions such as antipiracy patrols off Somalia.
China’s navy conducted its first joint maritime exercises with Djibouti last year and has said its new outpost will be largely to support Chinese forces on missions such as antipiracy patrols off Somalia. PHOTO: CHINESE NAVY


China entered the mix around 2010 when it started financing or building infrastructure that now includes three ports, two airports, water and gas pipelines and a railway to Ethiopia, which Beijing hopes will turn Djibouti into a trading hub.

In 2013, the ports division of a Chinese state conglomerate took a stake in Djibouti’s port operator, and in 2014 they agreed to invest $590 million in the new Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port, which will be the country’s largest. Two more Chinese state companies won contracts to build it.

Djiboutian officials said last year they were discussing the naval outpost, too. China confirmed in February that construction had started.

During a recent visit, Chinese staff in hard hats, slacks and polo shirts could be seen moving around the commercial port, which largely obscures the restricted-access military outpost. None would answer questions.

The Chinese outpost is keenly monitored by the other foreign forces here, some of whose reconnaissance planes fly over on their way to and from antipiracy patrols.

Satellite images reveal substantial construction and land reclamation this year in an area between the port and a private guesthouse built by a sheik from Dubai, which has its own jetty, although it is unclear if that will be part of the base.

Mr. Youssouf, the foreign minister, said there are no precise limits on Chinese troop numbers, but the outpost could house no more than 2,000 and would likely have only 300. It will have a single berth for ships and no runway, but possibly a helipad, he said. It will cost China $20 million annually for 10 years with an option for 10 more and will be Beijing’s only military facility in Djibouti.

Until recently, China hadn’t sought to project force this far since the 15th century, when the “eunuch admiral,” Zheng He, sailed to East Africa. Soon after, China introduced a ban on maritime trade that contributed to its economic decline, culminating in the Communist revolution in 1949.

Since easing open its economy in 1979, China has focused on domestic development and often cited its lack of overseas bases as proof of a commitment to nonintervention in others’ affairs. That stance is becoming untenable following a decade in which Chinese companies have poured billions into mines, oil fields, railroads and other ventures from Argentina to the Arctic.

In Djibouti’s neighborhood, actual and pledged Chinese investment, mostly in oil and gas, totals $2.6 billion in South Sudan, $16 billion in Iraq and $26 billion in Saudi Arabia, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

China’s expanding economic presence has led to domestic pressure to protect its civilian expatriates and international pressure to help with multilateral security.


Camel herders and other villagers around Doraleh, Djibouti, many of whom work at the port site, say they have seen Chinese troops moving in the area.E
Camel herders and other villagers around Doraleh, Djibouti, many of whom work at the port site, say they have seen Chinese troops moving in the area. PHOTO: JEREMY PAGE/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In 2008, China deployed its first warships to Gulf of Aden antipiracy patrols. Since 2013 it has sent hundreds of peacekeepers to South Sudan and Mali. Civil wars forced Beijing to evacuate 35,000 Chinese nationals from Libya in 2011 and 600 from Yemen last year.

Chinese officials said their navy experienced serious difficulties in protecting, maintaining and refueling ships and providing food and rest for crews during such missions.

Beijing also had trouble supplying its peacekeepers, and it was frustrated that other foreign navies got priority in Djibouti’s old port, where the U.S. and France have dedicated berths.

“Currently, we rely more on security cooperation to protect our interests. Undoubtedly we need to enhance our own capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. Chen Zhou, a senior Chinese military strategist. “Whether with aircraft or ships, we need this capability for strategic projection.”

China’s navy previously planned to piggyback on commercial ports built or operated by Chinese companies in countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, according to foreign officers and analysts who study Chinese strategy. But commercial ports are costly places to purchase services and are of limited use during combat operations that require secure, specialist facilities.

China’s strategy now, foreign analysts say, is to build small military or dual-use facilities, focused on Africa and the Mideast and manned with troops. China also is establishing military installations on islands it has built up in the South China Sea.

Hawkish Chinese officers have long called for foreign bases. Only recently was the idea incorporated into official publications on strategy, including a 2013 book produced by the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Science. It calls for China to establish “necessary overseas supply points and a limited force presence” abroad to protect lines of communication and “exert political and military influence in relevant regions.”

In Djibouti, Western military officials say they haven’t met their Chinese counterparts, who don’t participate in meetings among foreign forces here.

Chinese workers, seen here in May 2015, have built a railway linking Djibouti with neighboring Ethiopia that Beijing hopes will become a major trade route and eventually extend further across Africa.
Chinese workers, seen here in May 2015, have built a railway linking Djibouti with neighboring Ethiopia that Beijing hopes will become a major trade route and eventually extend further across Africa. PHOTO: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Longer term, their worry is that Djibouti, like many countries in the region, will put priority on Chinese interests as it becomes more dependent on Beijing’s largess.

Djibouti is already seeking more Chinese loans and investment, said its economy minister, Ilyas Dawaleh. He denied that gave Beijing leverage to expand its base but said China had the same right to do so as other nations.

“For the time being, let them establish what they have,” he said. “Then let’s see.”

Write to Jeremy Page at

China announces massive military reforms

November 27, 2015


Changes unprecedented in scale and nature aimed at making PLA more combat ready

People’s Liberation Army honour guards preparing for a welcome ceremony in Beijing on Nov 26. Photo by EPA

China has launched its biggest-ever set of military reforms, including the establishment of a new joint operational command, to turn the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a more combat-ready force.

The long-anticipated reforms come as tensions simmer over territorial disputes with neighbours and to address the strategic rivalry with the United States and Japan.

China unveiled them yesterday through its official Xinhua news agency at the end of a three-day, closed-door meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping and attended by 200 military officials.

Other key reforms on target for implementation by 2020 include the rezoning of the existing seven military regions into new strategic zones; strengthening the Central Military Commission (CMC) command structure over the PLA; and reorganising the military headquarters.

The imposition of strict discipline on the army, another reform pledge, will see the PLA setting up a new disciplinary structure and a new legal and political committee to weed out graft and legal violations.

But details were scant on most reform pledges except on a promise by Mr Xi at a military parade in September to downsize the 2.3-million strong PLA by 300,000 troops.

“We must build up an elite combat force, enhance the command structure and make-up of troops, and transform our military model from one focused on quantity to one underpinned by quality,” said Mr Xi, who chairs the CMC which controls the PLA.

Retired PLA colonel Yue Gang said the latest reforms constitute the biggest military overhaul since the 1950s, shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949.

“The reform shakes the very foundations of China’s Soviet Union- style military system, and transferring to a US-style joint command structure will transform China’s PLA into a specialised armed force that could pack more of a punch in the world,” he told Bloomberg.

Beijing-based military observer Wang Xiangsui said the latest reforms are not just unprecedented in terms of scale but also in their nature.

“In the past, reforms would continue traditional traits of the Chinese military, but this time it contains more elements of the militaries in Western developed nations, especially the United States,” Prof Wang told The Straits Times.

One example he noted was that the seven military regions (known as da jun qu in Mandarin) in Beijing, Shenyang, Nanjing, Jinan, Guangzhou, Chengdu and  were drawn to meet defence purposes based on their respective geographic locations and are centred more on the army.

The new strategic zones, known as zhan qu in Mandarin, could be more comprehensive in their composition of combat units with a clear bent towards a particular service, modeled on the US military command structure.

But the military reform programme, first unveiled in late 2013, has reportedly triggered resistance within the military.

Top brass oppose reforms out of fears that their interests would be hurt.

In recent weeks, the People’s Liberation Army Daily has published a series of commentaries warning of opposition to the reforms.

But Mr Xi yesterday said the entire military was “ardently anticipating” the reforms and “firmly upheld” them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline ‘China announces massive reforms to its military’.



China Retools Its Military With a First Overseas Outpost in Djibouti

A People’s Liberation Army training drill near Beijing last year. China said on Thursday that it would build a logistics facility in Djibouti, in a sign of the growing reach of its navy. Credit Andy Wong/Associated Press

The New York Times

BEIJING — China announced on Thursday that it would establish its first overseas military outpost and unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize its military into a more agile force capable of projecting power abroad.

The outpost, in the East African nation of Djibouti, breaks with Beijing’s longstanding policy against emulating the United States in building military facilities abroad.

The Foreign Ministry refrained from describing the new installation as a military base, saying it would be used to resupply Chinese Navy ships that have been participating in United Nations antipiracy missions.

Read the rest:

Chinese navy ships came within 12 nautical miles of the U.S. coast

September 4, 2015


Another Provocative Move by China?  Vessels complied with international law, Pentagon officials say

Chinese warships participating in joint Russian-Chinese military exercises on Aug. 25; afterward, five of the Chinese ships sailed to the Bering Sea, passing through U.S. territorial waters.

Chinese warships participating in joint Russian-Chinese military exercises on Aug. 25; afterward, five of the Chinese ships sailed to the Bering Sea, passing through U.S. territorial waters. Photo: Zuma Press

Chinese navy ships off the coast of Alaska in recent days weren’t just operating in the area for the first time: They also came within 12 nautical miles of the U.S. coast, making a rare foray into U.S. territorial waters, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials said for the first time late Thursday that the five Chinese navy ships had passed through U.S. territorial waters as they transited the Aleutian Islands, but said they had complied with international law. Analysts saw the passage as significant as Beijing has long objected to U.S. Navy vessels transiting its territorial waters or operating in international waters just outside.

China’s Defense Ministry also confirmed for the first time that its navy ships had sailed to the Bering Sea for training after joint exercises with Russia in late August, but said the activity was routine and not aimed at any particular country.

U.S. officials said earlier they were tracking the five ships in the area, where they hadn’t seen the Chinese navy operating before, but they didn’t say how close the ships came to U.S. territory.

The ships’ activity, just as President Barack Obama was visiting Alaska, threw a fresh spotlight on China’s expanding naval power and ambitions on the eve of a lavish military parade in Beijing.

But the ships didn’t do anything threatening and transited U.S. territorial waters in accordance with a principle of “innocent passage” in international law, Pentagon officials said.

The five Chinese ships “transited expeditiously and continuously through the Aleutian Island chain in a manner consistent with international law,” a Pentagon spokesman said. Pentagon officials also confirmed that the vessels came within 12 nautical miles of the U.S. coast.

The Chinese foray into U.S. waters came just three weeks before China’s President, Xi Jinping, begins a state visit to the U.S. already clouded by tensions over alleged cyberattacks on the U.S. and China’s island-building in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials believe China is building a “blue-water” navy capable of operating far from its shores, while also developing missiles and other capabilities designed to prevent the U.S. Navy from intervening in a conflict in Asia.

Many of those capabilities, including a new antiship ballistic missile, were put on display for the first time on Thursday in a military parade in Beijing to mark the surrender of Japanese forces at the end of World War II.

But some U.S. military experts saw the Chinese transit through the Aleutians, in adhering to the “innocent passage” principle—which allows military ships to transit foreign territorial waters if they don’t conduct threatening activity—as a positive step.

“As a matter of fairness and equity, these operations are a big step forward for U.S. interests in that Beijing now has no basis to object to similar passage through China’s territorial sea by the U.S., for instance in vicinity of China’s islands in the South China Sea,” said Peter Dutton, director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College.

China took another step in that direction last year when its navy ships made their debut at U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific, or Rimpac, joint naval drills in Hawaii.

U.S. officials said an uninvited Chinese spy ship observed the Rimpac drills from international waters just off Hawaii. China’s Defense Ministry said at the time that its ship operations complied with international law.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) moors alongside the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao during a port visit associated with the last RIMPAC Exercise

Still, Mr. Dutton and other experts said it was doubtful that China would suddenly stop objecting to U.S. naval ships passing through its territorial waters or conducting surveillance in nearby international waters.

The Chinese ships’ operations off Alaska “are also a big step forward in that China’s blue-water navy has announced its arrival as a global force,” Mr. Dutton added.

Pentagon officials said in May they were drawing up plans to send navy ships or aircraft within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands that China has been building in the disputed South China Sea.

Later that month, China expressed “strong dissatisfaction” and accused the U.S. of irresponsible and dangerous action after a U.S. Navy surveillance jet flew close to the artificial islands, but not within 12 nautical miles.

China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to questions about which ships were in the flotilla near Alaska and how close they came to U.S. territory.

In a brief statement, it said some Chinese navy ships had sailed to the Bering Sea and Western Pacific after taking part in joint exercises with Russia called “Joint Sea 2015 (II).”

“This is a routine arrangement in the annual plan, it is not aimed at any particular country and target,” the statement said.

Those exercises ran from Aug. 20-28 off the Russian Pacific coast—about 2,000 miles west of the Bering Sea—according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Seven Chinese ships took part, including two destroyers, two frigates, two landing ships and one supply ship, Xinhua said.

U.S. officials said the five ships near the Aleutians included three Chinese combat ships, a supply vessel and an amphibious landing ship.

Write to Jeremy Page at and Gordon Lubold at


Philippines Investigating Report of Chinese Warships Near Philippine Territory

May 12, 2014


The Philippine Navy is still verifying reports from the US 7th Fleet that two Chinese frigates were spotted in the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, but added it will likely leave the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

According to Col. Edgard Arevalo, commander of the Navy Civil Military Operations group, said the Navy is still waiting for reports “from our end” to corroborate reports that two Chinese ships, one with bow number 572, were spotted by a US helicopter operating off the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the 7th Fleet.

“We are validating it from our side, kasi ang report nun [nanggaling] sa US 7th Fleet e,” he said.

Arevalo said, though, that this would not be the first time that Chinese warships have been seen in or near territory claimed by the Philippines.

He added that the Navy defers to the DFA in developments in the West Philippine Sea, the portion of the South China Sea that the Philippines claims.

He explained that the “underpinnings” and “repercussions” of the reported sighting of the Chinese ships near Philippine territory falls under the mandate of the Foreign Affairs department.

“Hindi tayo sumasagot sa armed forces lang,” he said.

According to reports, including a May 9 report from US Department of Defense-run Stars and Stripes, a helicopter from the Blue Ridge spotted the two Chinese ships off Panatag on May 5.

The Stars and Stripes report said hull numbers from photos provided by the US Navy “indicate the Chinese ships were the destroyer Lanzhou and the frigate Hengshui.”

In 2012, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar tried to arrest suspected Chinese poachers in Panatag Shoal. This led to a standoff with Chinese maritime surveillance ships.

The Del Pilar left two days later after being relieved by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel for unspecified “operational” reasons. — JDS, GMA News

China’s Type 052C destroyer Lanzhou

China warship frigate Hengshui

China conducts navy drill in East China Sea closer to Japan (Video)

October 3, 2012



China conducts a military drill in the East China Sea, amid a territorial dispute with Japan.

While the exact date is unclear, the live drill took place after Japan said on Tuesday (September 11) it had purchased islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.

Chinese state media said naval exercises are an annual event.

News of the drills came as thousands continued anti-Japan rallies in various Chinese cities.

Police barricaded the Japanese embassy in Beijing to protect it from protesters.

In Shanghai, Japanese restaurants were targeted, and reports said shops were looted and Japanese cars attacked in other cities as well.

The dispute escalated on Friday (September 14) when China briefly sent six surveillance ships near the disputed islands.

Known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, the islets sit near potentially rich oil and gas fields.

TOKYO (Reuters) – At least two of 11 Chinese ocean surveillance and fishery patrol ships sailing near East China Sea islets claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing have entered what Japan considers its territory, public broadcast NHK said on Tuesday, quoting Japan’s Coast Guard.

Anti-Japan protests have broken out in cities across China, triggered by the dispute over the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, believed to be in waters rich in natural gas.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)