Chinese People’s Liberation Army ends live-fire exercises in South China Sea

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will conclude live-fire exercises in waters west of the Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong today. These

PLA live fire drills in 2018

Photo: Reuters/Stringer

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will conclude live-fire exercises in waters west of the Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong today.

These drills, which began on July 27, included anti-ship and anti-aircraft exercises by the PLA Air Force and Navy. In conjunction with the exercises, the PLA has also conducted live-fire shooting training on sea surface targets, nighttime patrol missions in the South China Sea, and anti-submarine training sessions in the past month.

These exercises seem to be a direct response to recent US-China tensions over the South China Sea. Last week, Washington rejected China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, and recently the US dispatched two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to conduct joint exercises off the Philippines. As the US is expanding its presence and surveillance efforts in the South China Sea, the PLA seems to be signalling that it is prepared to defend China’s interests in the region—namely Beijing’s significant investment in island-building in the disputed waters.

As tensions continue to escalate between the US and China, large-scale military drills will likely become a regular activity. Simultaneously, more frequent drills will increase the likelihood of miscalculation and direct military skirmishes between US and Chinese forces.

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