Chinese military carries out South China Sea minesweeping drill

Amber Wang, South China Morning Post

Posted at Aug 14 2022 07:36 AM

The People's Liberation Army Navy carried out a five-day minesweeping drill in the South China Sea, the Southern Theatre Command said on Friday.

The mission was conducted by a minesweeping brigade that included the Type 082-II minesweepers Hejian and Chishui, according to a statement by the PLA.

It appears this is the first maritime training exercise Hejian has taken part in since it entered service.

It is the fourth consecutive month that the navy carried out minesweeping drills, which would be a key task in the event of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

According to the statement, several ships took part in the operation, which tested the formation's planning, communications and emergency response capability.

The ships Hejian and Chishui successfully cleaned floating and underwater mine targets, it added, and the formation conducted practised firing artillery and dropping mine-killing equipment.

The ships also discovered an unidentified foreign vessel carrying out illegal fishing in nearby waters, which was warned and expelled by the formation.

China's minehunting capability is believed to be important to its mission in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions have escalated this month after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never ruled out the use of force to take control. Most countries do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state but many, including the US and its allies, oppose any attempt to take it by force.

In January, Taiwan commissioned new minelayers that can automatically sow large numbers of small but powerful mines at high speed without the need for divers.

From 2017 to 2021, the Taiwanese navy allocated US$33 million to build four fast minelaying ships to enhance its maritime defences around the island, according to Taiwan media.

An American naval analyst recently argued that the United States could also pursue an aggressive but low-cost strategy of laying mines in the Yellow Sea and Pearl River Delta to force China to negotiate in the event of a conflict between the two powers.

In an article published by the US Naval Institute recently, Commander Victor Duenow said the countermeasure could be seen as a form of deterrence or economic warfare designed to prevent an escalation if the US decided to intervene following a mainland Chinese attack on Taiwan.

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