Following now completed joint war games held by the US, Japan, France and Australia in the East China Sea off the southwest coast of Japan earlier this month, China has lashed out particularly at its large regional neighbor Australia, calling its military "weak" and "insignificant" at a moment the two are locked in a severe trade and diplomatic tit-for-tat dispute.
Beijing voiced specific threats and warnings via its state-run English language mouthpiece Global Times, which recently wrote, "Australia's military is too weak to be a worthy opponent of China, and if it dares to interfere in a military conflict for example in the Taiwan Straits, its forces will be among the first to be hit."
"Australia must not think it can hide from China if it provokes," the report continued with its threats. "Australia is within range of China's conventional warhead-equipped DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile."
Exercise Jeanne d'Arc 21 - or ARC21, as the Western alliance called it, also featured rare amphibious assault landing drills, which is seen as aimed at challenging China's expansive claims over regional island-chains and contested reef areas on which it's built up military installations.
Here's more from the GT column's response...
The ongoing joint exercises by Japanese, US, French and Australian troops, claimed to "serve as a deterrent to China," is only symbolic and of little military significance, as the drill was put together by participants that have different agenda or are too weak, experts said on Wednesday, while slamming Japan's outdated mindset of rallying alliances for confrontation.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) doesn't even need to make pointed responses to the joint drill since it's insignificant militarily.
Japan was also focus of China's media attacks over the exercise as it was warned not to let its historic "militarism come back to life".
Sobering assessment by @MOFA_Taiwan foreign minister that China is "preparing for war." To be clear though, Beijing has never stopped preparing for war since 1949. Recent surge in military activities & possibility of domestic upheaval causes for concern. https://t.co/RvUXxSHm6s— Russell Hsiao (@lcrhsiao) May 26, 2021
Also at a sensitive moment its hosting the summer Olympics is in question, the article called for Tokyo not to get distracted from the more pressing pandemic and health crisis in its midst:
Despite its severe domestic COVID-19 situation, Japan remains stubborn in hooking in "like-minded" countries for joint military exercises, which is an outdated Cold War mindset and will only build divisions and confrontation, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
As an invading country defeated in World War II, why is Japan holding offensive exercises like this? Zhang asked. "Japan should learn from history and not let militarism come back to life."
All of this comes as the United States also this week announced it will send its only Asia-Pacific carrier presence to Mideast waters in order to assist with the Afghanistan withdrawal this summer - a move which Republican Congressional hawks lamented as leaving the US exposed in a "priority theater".
Rabobank noted on the USS Ronald Reagan's impending departure from waters off Japan that "For the first time in a long time, the US has no aircraft carrier in the Pacific. The symbolism is clear: and it leaves some wondering what might happen if push comes to shove."