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
The exercises were expected to last several days but foreign
observers would only be present on Tuesday, Western observers
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
"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
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
According to Xinhua, representatives from Japan, Taiwan and
South Korea were not present among the foreign observers at
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.