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China Begins War Games with Foreign Observers

Agence France Presse
Sep 27

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 kilometers (300 miles) west of Beijing and about 100 kilometers south of the Mongolian border, they said.

"This was basically a routine exercise, similiar 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 modernization or transparency by Beijing in its basic military doctrine and military intentions.

The US Defense Department in a report earlier this year said China was gearing up to re-unify Taiwan by force and had deployed nearly 800 ballistic missiles on its southeastern coast facing the island.

China insists that it is aiming for peaceful reunification with the island that has been ruled independently since communist forces set up the People's Republic on the mainland in 1949.

The war games follow the first joint land, sea and air military exercises between China and Russia in August, code-named Peace Mission 2005.

The one-week maneuvers, which involved 10,000 troops from the two countries, started in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East and later moved to east China's Shandong peninsula.

The drills garnered wide interest from the Asia and Pacific region, including from the United States, Japan, Taiwan and the two Koreas, while boosting already robust Russian arm sales to China.

According to Xinhua, representatives from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea were not present among the foreign observers at Tuesday's exercises.

After maintaining a policy of non-interaction with foreign armies for decades, China began regularly participating in joint military exercises in 2003.

"The Chinese army is becoming more open and transparent," People's Liberation Army General Peng Guangqian told Xinhua.

"Such openess and transparency is a refutation against 'China threat' rhetoric ... China does not constitute any threat to any country, instead it is a major force maintaining world peace."

Besides maneuvers with the Russian army, China has engaged in naval rescue operations with Britain, France, India and Pakistan, and border patrols with Central Asian nations such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.




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