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China to military drills in southeast sea for a month-long


China has announced that it will hold military exercises in the Asian southeast sea for the whole of March, at a time when the US military has been frequently sending reconnaissance aircraft and ships to the region and a French warship group is on its way. 

The region will likely remain a flashpoint with the new US administration expected to continue to pressure China with both military and political moves, analysts said on Sunday 28, 2021. 

Military exercises will be held in a circular zone with a radius of five kilometers at the west of the Leizhou Peninsula, with prohibition of entry for other vessels, reads a navigation restriction notice released by China’s Maritime Safety Administration on its website on Friday 26, 2021.

Since July 2020, China has held several rounds of military drills in the region, indicating it is a routine location for exercises, analysts said. According to monitoring the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank, the US sent an MQ-4C maritime reconnaissance drone, an EP-3E spy plane and an RC-135U strategic reconnaissance aircraft, and some USNS ocean surveillance ship to the region on Friday and Saturday.

Chinese military experts said that these kinds of operations have military significance because they allow the US to gather military intelligence on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and hydrological environments in the sea, including eavesdropping on PLA communications, learning the electromagnetic signal patterns of Chinese equipment and planting underwater sonar devices to track PLA submarines.

France also sent an amphibious assault ship and a frigate in mid-February. According to the route plan, the French warships are scheduled to sail through the Qiongzhou Strait, an inland sea of China between the Leizhou Peninsula and the island province of Hainan. 

The US is attempting to contain China by rallying its Western allies to the South China Sea, which has more political rather than military significance, analysts said. China is expected to continue facing pressure from the sea, as the US, its allies and India could keep stirring up troubles, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times.

Since the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the Diaoyu Islands will remain as maritime security flashpoints, Chinese troops should enhance combat preparedness, Li said, predicting a continued steady increase in China’s defense budget for this year, which is expected to be released during the upcoming two sessions in a week.