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Didn’t have time to keep up with Asian news in October? Check out our news briefs on events in September and October, including: summary of Chinese and foreign bilateral exercises; dismissal of China’s Defense Minister; record activity around Taiwan; follow-up on the 44th anti-piracy fleet’s port calls; new tensions between Filipino sailors and Chinese coastguards; sale of satellite imagery to the Wagner Group…
– Beijing Xiangshan Forum
China’s international security forum, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, was held in Beijing from October 29 to 31. Welcoming 19 defense ministers and 99 official delegations this year, it is the largest security forum after the Shangri-La Dialogue, with which it is in direct competition. It also has a special resonance as China takes over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in November.
Unlike the Shangri-La Dialogue, whose discourse is predominantly Western, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum acts as a sounding board for official Chinese narratives. It also provides a platform for speeches by related powers: leading the way, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke of the decadence of the West, and denounced the hegemonic intentions of the United States.
Furthermore, while China no longer has a Minister of Defense, the Xiangshan forum was an opportunity for two Vice-Chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC, China’s highest military body), He Weidong and Zhang Youxia, to hold numerous bilateral meetings.
– Chinese navy exercises around Taiwan
Combat simulation exercises were allegedly organized around the Shandong carrier strike group (1) between October 26 and November 1 off the coast of Taiwan. The Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, took part in an exercise involving the take-off and landing of fighter aircraft southeast of Taiwan on Saturday 26th.
For its part, Taiwan’s ministry of Defense reported a peak in activity around its territory during this period, stating that it had spotted 43 PLA (2) aircraft on the night of October 31 to November 1, 37 of which penetrated its ADIZ (3) to the south-west and south-east of the island. Chinese aircraft cross Taiwan’s ADIZ on a daily basis, and the record number of aircraft sighted around the island was set on September 18, when 103 PLA aircraft crossed the median line.
Finally, on November 1, an American destroyer and a Canadian frigate crossed the Taiwan Strait. The Pentagon declared that this was a “routine transit” in “waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”. Such transits are relatively frequent – a similar occurrence took place on September 9, 2023.
– Dialogue on security cooperation against a backdrop of conflict near the Sino-Burmese border
On October 31, fighting broke out between rebel groups and junta soldiers near the town of Laiza, in Myanmar’s Kachin province, close to the border with China. Bombing raids were carried out by the junta’s army.
On November 1, China’s Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong visited the country for the 7th China-Myanmar Ministerial Meeting on Law Enforcement and Security Cooperation. He met with the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Immigration. While the official topic of discussion was the crackdown on telecoms fraud that has been in the news in China in recent weeks, the presence of the immigration official may indicate that the three ministers also discussed the issue human trafficking in Myanmar.
Following the capture of the town of Laiza by three armed rebel groups on the day of the inter-ministerial meeting, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called on the parties to “stop the fighting immediately”.
– Stopover of the 44th anti-piracy fleet in the United Arab Emirates
After concluding its friendly visit to Qatar and leaving Doha on October 28, the 44th escort formation of the Chinese navy reached the port of Zayed in the United Arab Emirates on October 30. The anti-piracy fleet will stay for five days as part of a courtesy visit.
Unlike the stopover in Oman, at the end of which the Chinese sailors organized a “joint exercise” with the Omani navy, the stopovers in Kuwait and Qatar did not give rise to any such maneuvers. Nor was any joint training announced for the Port Zayed stopover.
It should be noted that the expression “joint exercise” here actually refers to small-scale maneuvers – this was a short exercise involving few ships.
(1) A “carrier strike group” is a military formation comprising an aircraft carrier, ships of various sizes and an air fleet (fighter and/or supply aircraft).
(2) PLA: People’s Liberation Army, official name of the Chinese army.
(3) ADIZ: Air defense identification zone. This zone can be delimited over land or sea, and can extend beyond the territory (as in the case of Taiwan). It is defined by the country as a sensitive zone, the control of which is a national security issue. Foreign aircraft entering this zone without prior notification or authorization may be considered aggressive. It should be noted, however, that Chinese aircraft cross the Taiwanese ADIZ on a daily basis.