An uptick in Chinese maritime
exercises in the Pacific is a “natural evolution” and the
drills will grow in complexity as the navy boosts its capacity,
commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Robert Thomas said.
China is expected to keep up a “steady drumbeat” of
exercises in the region, Thomas told reporters today at the
opening ceremony of a bilateral naval exercise with Singapore
known as CARAT Singapore.
“This is a natural evolution for the PLAN as they improve
their professionalism, as they improve both their capacity and
capability,” he said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army
Navy. “You should expect more exercises, and frankly more
China is holding a spate of drills across the East and
South China Seas that may add to tensions with neighbors over
territorial disputes as President Xi Jinping expands the reach
of the navy. President Barack Obama has said the U.S. isn’t
seeking to contain China and that there’s room to accommodate
China’s growing economic and military clout.
China has described its exercises, which include a live-firing drill in the South China Sea, as routine even as they are
larger in scope. The nation is ratcheting up pressure on
neighbors including Japan and the Philippines as the U.S.
reassures its allies it remains committed to its policy for an
economic and strategic rebalancing to the region.
Thomas’s comments suggest the U.S., which is holding its
own exercises this week with Japan and India off the southern
coast of Japan, is seeking to focus on the potential for
military cooperation after China joined the U.S.-led Rim of the
Pacific Exercise. China is taking part along with the U.S. and
Japan in the five-week-long Rimpac drills, which run through
Aug. 1 in waters off Hawaii. Of the 22 nations involved, China’s
four ships make up the second-biggest contingent after the U.S.
“We are routinely operating in the same international
waters that they are,” Thomas said. “Frankly, our relationship
with the PLAN from the 7th Fleet perspective is very collegial,
China began five days of drills in the East China Sea
today, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website.
Those exercises, which the ministry called routine, come while
China is holding live-fire drills off Beibu Bay, or the Gulf of
Tonkin, near Vietnam and drills in the Bohai Strait that both
end Aug. 1.
China claims much of the South China Sea, which may be rich
in energy and mineral deposits, under its “nine dash line” map
first published in 1947, which extends hundreds of miles south
from China’s Hainan Island to equatorial waters off the coast of
Borneo, taking in some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. In
the East China Sea, Japan and China both lay claims to a chain
of uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu
in Chinese. The U.S. has said it will come to Japan’s defense in
any clash over the islands.
“The U.S. position is that the Senkakus are administered
by Japan and therefore in our treaty obligations with Japan,
they would fall under those treaty obligations,” Thomas said.
The CARAT drills, which include a torpedo-firing exercise,
will involve two U.S. Navy guided missile destroyers with
helicopters and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft as well
as Formidable-class frigates and an Archer-class submarine from
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Sharon Chen in Singapore at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Rosalind Mathieson at
U.S. Says Says More Chinese Drills a "Natural Evolution"