China Starts Live-Fire Drill in West Sea

Chosun llbo: The Chinese Navy’s North Sea Fleet on Wednesday started a live-fire drill in waters southeast of Qingdao, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The drill will come to an end on Saturday, one day before a South Korea-U.S. naval exercise starts in the West Sea.

Quoting the press office of the Chinese Defense Ministry, Xinhua said the drill “is an annual exercise staged in the maritime drill zone southeast of Qingdao under a military program. A highlight is bombardment by naval guns.”

A photo accompanying the report showed Fei Bao fighter jets, anti-ship attack aircraft that China showed off at its 60th anniversary celebrations in October last year, a 051C destroyer capable of launching missiles, a new patrol plane, and a new high-speed boat armed with stealth missiles. This suggests that the drill is essentially China’s response to the joint South Korea-U.S. exercise on its doorstep. The Chinese media quoted also military analysts to that effect.

The Chinese government has protested against both a South Korea-U.S. exercise in the East Sea last month and the West Sea drill that starts Sunday.

Meanwhile, North Korea on Wednesday pledged to tighten military cooperation with China. Kim Yong-nam, the president of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, said, “We’ll try to step up exchange and cooperation between the two countries and strengthen friendly and cooperative relations between the militaries of the two countries.”

Kim was meeting a delegation from China’s Shenyang Military District on a visit to Pyongyang, Xinhua reported. The Shenyang Military District oversees the North Korea-China border area.

Kim said the two countries’ “traditional friendship, which revolutionaries in the earlier generation of the two countries had established and fostered, have remained strong despite historical trials.”

Zhang Youxia, Chinese commander of the Shenyang Military Region said China “values the bilateral friendly relationship and is trying to consolidate it.”