How Does PLA Respond to US Vessels' Frequent Entry into South China Sea?
(Source: China Military Online; issued July 04, 2017)
BEIJING --- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS STETHEM (DDG 63) sailed near China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on July 2 without the permission of the Chinese government.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense (MND), revealed that the Chinese forces dispatched the guided-missile frigates Luoyang (Hull 527) and Suqian (Hull 504), minesweeper Taishan (Hull 842) and two J-11b fighter jets to warn off the U.S. vessel.

In recent years, U.S. military vessels frequently made provocations in the South China Sea in the name of "freedom of navigation". How has the PLA dealt with them?

An anonymous military expert said on July 3 that the defense ministry dispatched three naval vessels and two fighter jets to warn off the U.S. destroyer, it meant the PLA had total control of Stethem's movement, otherwise there wouldn't be three Chinese naval vessels on site.

It's obvious that the three Chinese vessels might form a formation to pressure the U.S. destroyer, and sea and air forces could work in coordination to conduct all-round monitoring of it and had the capability of taking further operations.

According to the expert, compared with before when there was few satellites, few onshore long-range warning radar and few vessels, the PLA today has established an all-weather and all-time air and sea monitoring system to monitor China's territorial land, sea and air space from air, land and sea.

"We have satellites of the PLA Strategic Support Force in the sky, long-range warning radar on land and vessel radar on the sea, realizing effective control of situations in relevant sea and air spaces." Under such a monitoring system, relevant departments of China could immediately know the dynamics of US military vessels and aircraft as long as they make a move, said the expert.

Our advanced technologies are able to detect the type and number of the vessels and aircraft that the U.S. has dispatched, location of takeoff and flying path, and can help us make corresponding judgments and plans.

As more vessels have been commissioned in the PLA Navy in recent years, the PLA Navy has conducted routine war-preparedness patrol in waters of the South China Sea, East China Sea and other Chinese sea areas.

As a result, the expert said, the PLA Navy has mobile forces in all directions to carry out 24-hour war-preparedness patrol and deal with emergencies.

"After the five Theater Commands were set up, all PLA forces can work in coordination. The minute an emergency takes place or the suspicious target is detected, sea and air forces can get to the concerned sea area immediately to verify, warn and expel the target l," the expert added.

For example, when the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) performed the so-called "freedom of navigation" in China's Xisha Islands in October 2016, the Chinese destroyer Guangzhou(Hull 168) and frigate Luoyang(Hull 527) identified and verified the US vessel immediately and warned it off.

In May 2016, the PLA dispatched two fighter jets and a warning aircraft to relevant waters, the Chinese destroyer Guangzhou (Hull 168) and the frigates Mianyang(Hull 528) and Linfen(Hull 545) identified, verified and warned the Charles F. Adams class armed destroyer USS Lawrence (DDG-4) that sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Yongshu Reef of China's Nasha Islands.

In October 2015, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lassen(DDG-82) was driven away by the Chinese guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou (Hull 170) and the guided-missile frigate Taizhou(Hull 533) when the USS destroyer carrying out a similar operation near Chinese sea areas.

Regarding the frequent provocations by US military vessels in the South China Sea, the expert said those provocations are premeditated and "well-schemed" symbolic actions mainly for political purposes.

When US military vessels entered Chinese territorial sea, they always stuck to the baseline and only for a short time without more threatening moves. The Chinese military has its own judgment about their intentions.

Under such circumstances, the PLA of course has the ability to defend national sovereignty and security. The expert analyzed that China usually doesn't take massive armed actions such as collision on site in consideration for the long-term interests of both countries and regional stability.

Chinese vessels and aircraft mainly used to stop the transgression of the US vessels by sailing along, warning, driving away and taking photos as evidence, and submit relevant evidences to the their superior departments, and then the two countries would engage through military or diplomatic channels.

The expert also emphasized that the US military has repeatedly sent ships to enter China's sea areas, which infringed China's sovereignty and security and endangered the life safety of both sides' front-line personnel.

Such activities are the root cause of military security problems between China and the United States at sea and in the air, he added.

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