Chinese Navy seeks to expand influence beyond immediate neighbourhood
Beijing, China: A Chinese navy unit recently completed a far-ranging month-long training exercise in the Pacific Ocean, fuelling speculations that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is working on its broader ambitions by expanding its focus away from its immediate neighbourhood. According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Southern Theatre Command of the PLA said on Saturday that a fleet under its command had travelled over 6,700 nautical miles over the past month, passing between Indonesia and the Philippines and through the western Pacific. "The complicated military situation presents a great challenge to the will and perseverance of the officers and soldiers... The use of weapons in the far seas not only helps assess equipment performance under continuous sailing conditions, it also tests the ability of officers and soldiers to command and cooperate," the command said on its social media account. This shows that the Chinese navy has once again ramped up efforts to expand its sphere of operations, which it has been trying to do in the past few years. Last year, a fleet under the Southern theatre Command completed a 41-day drill in the Pacific, travelling 14,000 nautical miles and conducting a series of combat and rescue missions, SCMP reported.
"For China to develop expeditionary warfare capabilities, the PLA will continue to explore more areas instead of being limited to the neighbouring seas. More expeditionary exercises mean the navy is capable of reaching farther seas," he said. China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions. These ambitions have triggered a backlash and prompted the United States to step up its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, which Beijing says violates its sovereignty and increases the risk of conflict. In Japan, Chinese ships have made a record number of 112 incursions into waters around the disputed Senkaku islands also claimed by Tokyo. Chinese vessels sailed through the contiguous zone around the islands in the East China Sea on Friday for the 112th straight day, according to the Japan Coast Guard. Beijing has also implemented a new law that allows the country's quasi-military force to use weapons against foreign ships that China sees as illegally entering its waters.