China has stepped up its assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region by kicking off military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific. The drills involved advanced warships, helicopters and “special warfare” soldiers.
Kicking off an annual combat drill in the region, three naval ships of China’s Nanhai Fleet—missile destroyer Hefei, missile frigate Sanya, and supply ship Honghu—left a naval port in Sanya, Hainan Province on May 4.
The ships will later be joined by missile destroyers Lanzhou and Guangzhou, as well as missile frigate Yulin. Currently, the missile destroyers are carrying out other duties. There are helicopters and dozens of “special warfare” soldiers. The fleet will be separated into three groups to conduct varied drills.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) said that the main aim of the drill is to enhance combat readiness and practice coordination between ships and aircraft, and other forces. China, which claims most of the South China Sea, a major shipping lane rich in natural resources, has long-standing territorial disputes with several other Asian countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Challenging India’s position
Increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean and intending to set up naval bases in the region, China has been challenging India’s dominance in a region considered to be New Delhi’s backyard. To counter China’s forays into the region, India has begun joint strategic cooperation with the US. During US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent visit to India, the two countries discussed the prospects of sharing military bases and are in the final stages of sealing a logistics pact.
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