China warns US and South Korea with air drills

Beijing: Concerns are growing over the possibility of a war breaking out in the Korean peninsula after China’s Air Force conducted exercises while flying near its border to gather intelligence.

A spokesman of the Chinese Air Force Shen Jinke told South China Morning Post on Monday that these drills involved various aircraft which went through “routes and areas it has never flown before” over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean peninsula.

Jinke’s disclosure came the day the US and South Korean fighter planes began conducting the biggest-ever joint exercise known as Vigilant Ace. The exercise was in retaliation of the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea capable of hitting all of the US. Jinke did not reveal the date or location of China’s drills.

Zhongping, an independent commentator for Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television, told Xinhua that China may have flown over its air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, in the East China Sea where those areas overlap with Japanese and South Korean airspace.

Jinke said such exercises are going to be a regular feature now to boost the readiness of China’s air force to safeguard its strategic interests in case of an eventuality.

According to him, the exercise involved reconnaissance planes, fighter jets, an early warning and control aircraft, and a joint operation with surface-to-air missile units.

Military expert Li Jie said the timing of the announcement of the drills by the PLA was important.

“It is a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li said.

The US is upset over China’s failure to cut oil supplies to North Korea. Without fuel, Pyongyang cannot fire rockets. It wants China to sever all trade ties with its communist neighbour.

In a commentary, China’s Global Times said Beijing cannot persuade Pyongyang or sway the opinion of Washington. Whenever tension peaks on the Korean Peninsula, big powers keep pressuring China to intervene, it said.