China’s military exercises in the Yellow and Bohai seas following drills near the self-governing island of Taiwan are part of Beijing’s efforts to exert its power in the region, with an eye toward eventual domination, security analysts in South Korea and the United States say.
On Aug. 5 China’s Maritime Safety Administration announced a series of live-fire training exercises would be conducted on Aug. 6-15 in the Bohai Sea and in the southern waters of the Yellow Sea, which separates China from the Korean Peninsula.
The exercises can be seen as a “multipurpose strategic move” to expand China’s influence in the Yellow Sea, said Park Byung-kwang, director of the Center for International Cooperation at the Institute for National Security Strategy, a South Korean government-funded public research institute that focuses on security studies.
“It can be seen that it has the meaning of checking the strengthening of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and furthermore, security cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan,” he said.
China’s intention is to limit the access of U.S. naval forces, including aircraft carriers, to the Yellow Sea, which Koreans refer to as the West Sea, he said.
Chung Jae-hung, a research fellow at the independent South Korean think tank the Sejong Institute, said the exercises show China is thinking about how to protect its forces moving through the Taiwan Strait from U.S. and South Korean forces.
China’s military fleet is conducting exercises in the Yellow Sea to respond to the U.S. forces stationed in South Korea and Japan in a situation where the Chinese fleet moves to the Taiwan Strait, he said.
It means they are considering protection in the process of moving major forces, including the Chinese fleet, he said.
Bruce W. Bennett, an adjunct international/defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, said China’s moves indicate that it is playing a long game, “something that they’re thinking about for 2030 or 2040.”
“The Chinese play the long game,” he said. “They try to prepare themselves and position themselves so that over a period of many years, they have more capability to pose the kinds of threats that will give them an ability to influence both the United States and South Korea.
“So, this is a longer term effort that they’re carrying on trying to create conditions for dominance in the region,” he said.
Bruce Bechtol Jr., a professor in the Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, said China is trying to intimidate the South Korean government.
“If Chinese forces are in international waters they are certainly violating no international laws by training in these areas,” he said. “But given the timing, it appears that this training may be taking place in the areas that it is in order to intimidate the ROK [Republic of Korea] government because of its strong support for the ROK-U.S. alliance as well as several ROK policy moves that the Chinese government does not find to be in Beijing’s best interests.”
As of Wednesday, neither South Korean nor U.S. military officials had replied to questions from RFA about China’s exercises in the Yellow Sea.
The exercises in the Bohai and Yellow seas follow People’s Liberation Army anti-submarine and sea assault drills in the waters around Taiwan last week after a visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China regards the democratically-ruled island as a renegade province and seeks to unite it with the mainland, by force if necessary. Beijing frowns on official visits to Taiwan.
Translated by Leejin J. Chung for RFA Korean. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.