China launches war games in Yellow Sea

China on Wednesday launched live-fire naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, state media said, after voicing opposition to similar war games to be staged there by the United States and South Korea.

The Beihai fleet of the navy of the People’s Liberation Army will conduct a “live ammunition drill” through Saturday in waters off the eastern coast near the city of Qingdao, Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said many of the planes, vessels and battlefield weaponry to be used in the exercises were unveiled at the National Day military parade on October 1 last year, when China celebrated 60 years of Communist rule.

“This is an annual routine training, mainly involving the shooting of shipboard artillery,” Xinhua said in a previous report, citing China’s defence ministry.

The United States and South Korea are set to carry out a new round of joint drills in the Yellow Sea beginning Sunday, in another show of force against North Korea following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

Any military drills involving the United States in the Yellow Sea are a sensitive issue because of the area’s proximity to China and the disputed maritime boundary between North and South Korea.

China has bristled at the idea of a US aircraft carrier group patrolling waters near its coast, although the US military has said the planned anti-submarine exercise would not involve a carrier.

The United States and South Korea in July staged massive joint naval and air exercises in the nearby Sea of Japan (East Sea), which also drew criticism from Beijing — North Korea’s closest ally and trade partner.

Seoul and its allies say the sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan in March was caused by a North Korean torpedo attack, but Beijing has refused to join in international condemnation of Pyongyang over the incident.

China staged its own naval, air and artillery exercises in late July, though it was not clear if the drills had been pre-planned or were in response to the US-South Korea exercises.

Last month, the South staged its largest-ever anti-submarine drill including live-fire training near the disputed Yellow Sea border, prompting a North Korean artillery barrage fired into the sea. Also in August, the US and South Korea held annual 10-day joint war games on land that involved more than 80,000 troops.