China should be on “high alert” as the US, Japan and South Korea move closer militarily, the official PLA newspaper has warned, saying it would undermine security in the region.
It comes as the United States has been conducting more frequent drills with its two Asian partners and amid a push for more intelligence sharing between them, while Seoul and Tokyo seek to mend ties.
The PLA Daily article, written by two researchers from the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, said the alliance being forged by the three countries would lead to more confrontation and tensions in the region and that it would have a serious impact on security.
It pointed to recent military cooperation between the nations including drills, information sharing and joint weapons programmes, and their military expansion plans.
China’s military mouthpiece does not often call for the PLA to be on “high alert”, though it previously did so in response to the US intensifying military exercises with other countries in the region.
The latest warning came after the US, South Korea and Japan held anti-submarine drills in April, followed by joint naval missile defence exercises aimed at threats from North Korea.
The PLA researchers said the countries aimed to set up a trilateral intelligence sharing network similar to the Five Eyes – comprising Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
They said that with impetus from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo were trying to cooperate more and overcome obstacles in their relationship.
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Seoul and Tokyo have vowed to deepen ties and ease tensions over their wartime history and other issues in recent years.
“If the United States, Japan and South Korea form an integrated alliance, it is likely to create bloc confrontation in Northeast Asia,” the PLA researchers wrote.
They said stronger military cooperation between the countries would also lead to an intensified arms race in the region.
South Korea will boost military spending by US$261 billion over the five years to 2027, an annual rise of about 6.8 per cent, according to a defence plan released in December. Japan, meanwhile, aims to double its defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2027.
Japan also plans to upgrade its eight Aegis destroyers by 2027 so that US Tomahawk cruise missiles can be installed, a move the PLA researchers said reflected the “offensive nature” of the Japanese military strategy.
The article said the US could seek to establish an “Asia-Pacific version of Nato” in the future, based on its alliance with Japan and South Korea.
The PLA researchers also described as “dangerous” recent moves on nuclear cooperation, after Washington and Seoul secured a landmark deal enabling the United States to deploy nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea during Yoon’s visit to the US last month.
They said signals from Japan that it could host US nuclear weapons or even develop its own would “undoubtedly increase the risk of regional instability”.