'Protection of maritime rights' is a Chinese euphemism for coerced seizure of coastal rights
China is stepping up its training for a "short, sharp war" designed to seize the disputed Senkaku islands from Japan, according to the head of US naval intelligence in the Pacific.
Addressing a conference sponsored by the US Naval Institute in San Diego, California, Captain James Fannell said that the recent Missing Action 2013 exercises were training for the invasion of the uninhabited archipelago, which China claims as its sovereign territory and refers to as the Diaoyutai Islands.
"We concluded that the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, following with what can only be expected as the seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu island," said Capt Fannell, director of intelligence for the US Pacific Fleet.
The Ryukyu islands are Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, which China has also recently laid claim to.
"As a senior US government official recently stated, there is growing concern that China's pattern of behaviour in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained within the so-called 'nine-dash line'.
"This is despite the objections of its neighbours and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law," Capt Fannell said.
"By the way, 'protection of maritime rights' is a Chinese euphemism for coerced seizure of coastal rights of China's neighbours," he added.
Japan and the US have both expressed concern in the last 18 months at the rapid increase in military activity by the Chinese – particularly its naval and air-force units – and its provocative actions in the South China Sea.
Beijing has laid claim to vast swathes of the area based on its sovereignty over the Spratley and Paracel island groups, which other nations in south-east Asia are disputing.
China is undeterred by Washington, declaring that it does not recognise the 'nine-dash line' drawn up by Beijing to encompass its territorial claims – which go as close as 125 miles away from the mainland of the Philippines.
Reports suggest that as many as 40,000 service personnel took part in the exercise, which was based on a scenario of invading an island "where China has encountered strong resistance to its claims of territorial or maritime assets".
An analyst with Japan's National Institute of Defence Studies said Tokyo had "good reason" to be concerned, given that Beijing had deployed an aircraft carrier on operation patrols in the South China Sea and has purchased two large hovercraft, designed to land invasion forces on a beachhead, from the Ukraine.
Beijing has announced that it will develop indigenous versions of the hovercraft as well as a new class of large landing ships, designed to put large numbers of troops and equipment ashore.
"It is very clear that the PLA wants to enhance its amphibious and landing capabilities," according to Capt Fannell. (©Daily Telegraph, London)