Maneuvers to test combat capability, better prepare for security challenge
China rejected any suggestion on Thursday that its ongoing military exercises, believed to be some of the most extensive off its eastern seaboard, sent a message to any country.
These exercises are a routine arrangement in the annual training plan, and the outside world should not speculate or read too much into it, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular news briefing on Thursday.
"If someone feels uneasy or that they are being targeted, it's absolutely their own problem," he said.
Geng was responding to mounting attention in and outside China to the ongoing drills, which are larger in scope and duration than in years past. They have disrupted domestic civil air traffic and drawn speculation from some of China's neighbors' about Beijing's intentions.
On Tuesday, China began a five-day drill off its southeast coastal areas in the East China Sea. Meanwhile, ongoing drills off Beibu Bay near Vietnam and in the Bohai Strait and the Yellow Sea are scheduled to end on Friday.
Geng said these drills are for testing combat capability and improving real-combat training levels and military preparation for various security challenges.
However, Japan's Asahi Shimbun said on Sunday the drills were partly aimed at "containing Japan", and the United States and Japan are likely to be the "imaginary enemy".
The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun said the drill was made "in coordination with commemorations regarding the Sino-Japanese War", which aim at publicizing the concept of "building a stronger army".
Jiang Xinfeng, an expert on Japanese studies at the Academy of Military Science of the People's Liberation Army, said the larger scale is reasonable due to insufficient progress with China's military modernization and combat capability over the past decades.
"The current situation is subtle and tense, but some countries don't have to feel targeted as China is holding exercises in waters near its shores," said Jiang. "Japan, on the contrary, has held landing drills that obviously simulated defending and recapturing islands."
Zhang Junshe, deputy director of Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that while the scale of the drills is bigger than in the past, it is a coincidence the annual exercises are being held at the same time, and the scale and number are still dwarfed by those by Japan and the United States.
In another development, Geng confirmed on Thursday that China, Australia and the US will conduct their first trilateral military exercise "Exercise Kowari" in Australia in October.
Zhang said the trilateral one is likely to focus on non-traditional security and humanitarian relief.
"This is a good beginning for the three countries, and it is also good for the region's peace and stability," he said.