The People's Liberation Army launched at least three naval exercises in multiple waters on Monday, a move researchers said is intended to respond to provocations and improve the PLA Navy's combat capabilities.
A live-fire combat exercise began on Monday in the Bohai Sea and will continue through Sept 30. In the South China Sea, two separate exercises began on Monday and will end on Saturday, maritime safety authorities announced without further elaborating.
Beside these latest exercises, the PLA Navy is engaged in a large-scale, live-ammunition operation in the Yellow Sea from Saturday to Wednesday, the military said.
Li Jie, a retired researcher at the PLA Naval Research Academy, told China Daily on Monday that this past month has seen more military exercises conducted by the PLA than any previous month in many years.
"The reasons are simple－first, we need to take countermeasures against the United States' provocations. The US military rallied several countries to carry out its Rim of the Pacific 2020 naval exercises. It has also intensified provocative acts in the air and waters off our coasts, despite the severe COVID-19 outbreak on its territories," Li said.
"Second, we must strengthen our combat training and drill to prepare for possible contingencies in strategically important regions," he added.
Though the PLA has not made public detailed arrangements of the exercises, Li said he believes there would be missile interception, anti-ship, air defense and landing operations, noting that a key purpose is to verify and improve the joint operational capabilities among multiple services.
A naval strategy researcher, who wished to be identified only as Cui, said such exercises are usually likely to test and foster sea-denial or sea-control capabilities.
"Sea-denial capability means you can eliminate the adversary's core assets on the sea. Sea-control capability is much stronger and more demanding. It requires the destruction of the enemies' surface, underwater and air units in the given theater, which means it may involve our ballistic missiles," said Cui, who is familiar with developments in the PLA Navy.
"The exercises are necessary because we still need to improve our abilities in each and every field of naval warfare, ranging from mine clearance to integrated assault."
The combat drills came amid escalated tensions at sea between China and the US, which were caused by the repeated US provocations near China, especially in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea.
In response to a US warship's passage through the Taiwan Straits on Aug 18, Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, spokesman for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said last week that US troublemaking actions in the straits pose "a real threat to regional peace and stability and are extremely dangerous".
The officer said that the US has engaged in a succession of "negative acts" concerning Taiwan recently, and such moves sent misleading signals to separatist forces in Taiwan and strongly threatened peace and stability in the straits.