Chinese military ‘ready for any external provocation’ during Winter Olympics

  • With a week to go until the Games, PLA embarks on various naval exercises in its waters
  • Defence ministry takes aim at the US over its ‘pride in provocation’

China’s navy has embarked on a series of military exercises in its waters this week, saying it is prepared for any kind of provocation during the Winter Olympics.

Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday that China would ensure the Games were safe and “splendid”, and the People’s Liberation Army stood ready for any situation.

“The Chinese military is also fully prepared for any external provocation and contingency,” Wu said.

The assurance comes after US military drills in the South China Sea and the arrival of a US ballistic-missile submarine in Guam in recent weeks.

It also comes amid speculation in Chinese media that the United States and its allies could hold further military exercises near China during the Olympics, which start on February 4.

Wu also said the US “took pride” in military provocation, citing intentional close-in reconnaissance by its guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin.

Wu said China has lodged stern representations to the US in April last year when the USS Mustin tracked the Chinese carrier Liaoning in the South China Sea.

“Yet what was shocking was that the American side took pride in their military provocation, instead of feeling ashamed of it. It is high time now that the US had its hegemony syndrome and cognitive disorder treated,” he said.

The US and China are at odds on a range of fronts, including the Winter Olympics. The US has announced diplomatic boycott of the Games over human rights concerns, concerns that China rejects. In response, China has accused the US of politicising the event.

In a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington should “stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics”.

Those tensions are apparent on the water, with the US aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson and their strike groups starting training in the South China Sea last Sunday.

That same day, Taiwan reported warding off 39 PLA aircraft flying in its air defence identification zone, the biggest presence of mainland Chinese warplanes in the zone since October.

The two US aircraft carriers also conducted exercises with Japan Maritime Self-Defence Forces last week, and the USS Benfold sailed around the Paracel Islands, known in China as the Xisha Islands, in what the US Navy calls a freedom of navigation operation. China said it responded by organising naval and air forces to track, monitor and drive away the destroyer.

In Chinese exercises this week, naval warplanes from the Southern Theater Command conducted flight training on Woody Island, known as Yongxing Island in China, The PLA Daily said on its Weibo account on Friday.

The Nanchang destroyer attached to the PLA Northern Theater Command, also conducted three days of combat exercises in the Yellow Sea, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

In addition, the PLA Navy said four naval vessels from the Eastern Theatre Command conducted air defence and anti-submarine exercises.

Author: Amber Wang, SCMP

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