Thursday, September 29, 2005

China Begins Biggest Ever War Games

China's military Tuesday began its biggest-ever war exercises open to foreign observers with 16,000 soldiers carrying out maneuvers in the nation's Inner Mongolian region, state press said.
Some 40 military officers from 24 countries, including the United States, North Korea, Russia and major European and NATO nations began observing "North Sword 2005" in north China, Xinhua news agency reported. "It will enhance mutual understanding, and deepen friendship and cooperation between China's military and other militaries," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular briefing. Jia Xiaoning, a defense ministry spokesman, told Xinhua the exercise would "promote international and regional security cooperation." The exercises were expected to last several days but foreign observers would only be present on Tuesday, Western observers said. The exercises were unfolding in Zhurihe, a military base in Inner Mongolia, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) west of Beijing and about 100 kilometres south of the Mongolian border, they said.
"This was basically a routine exercise, similar to what they did last year when they invited foreign observers," a US diplomat told AFP. "This was not a new exercise." One Western military expert disputed the numbers of foreign observers attending the war games. "Each country was only allowed to bring two observers, from what we can see there are only 14 countries represented here," the expert said on condition of anonymity.
The US diplomat did not say whether the exercises resolved US concerns on the direction of China's ongoing military modernisation or transparency by Beijing in its basic military doctrine and military intentions.