China ‘seals off’ Yellow Sea for 2nd large-scale naval drill in fortnight

Friday, August 4, 2017
By Paul Martin
4 Aug, 2017

Beijing has declared an area the size of West Virginia off-limits to civilian vessels, ahead of extensive three-day naval exercises near the coast of North Korea. A similar drill took place in the area at the end of July.

The announcement only said that the drills would last between 6 am on Saturday and 6 pm Tuesday, and would involve “large-scale military operations.”

China commissioned 18 ships last year. While it currently only operates one Soviet-made aircraft carrier, trials are ongoing on the second vessel, wholly built in a local shipyard.

According to local analysts, the timing and choice of location for the current exercises is more to do with reasserting China’s regional power than an immediate need to test new hardware.

“This is a very normal part of diplomacy – there are talks and negotiations, but there is always in the background some sort of drum-beating,” Collin Koh from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University told the South China Morning Post (SCMP), saying that the drills are primarily a signal to Washington that North Korea is still under its protection.

Koh warned that while the drills do not represent immediate escalation, there is an element of “danger” as regional powers “are all quite heavily armed and are operating in quite a constricted space.”

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