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Drill marks more transparency of China's military
Updated: 2004-09-26 10:54

A military exercise code-named "Iron Fist-2004" in Henan Province, watched by 60 foreign servicemen, marked another step in the increasing transparency of China's military, Saturday.

A reinforced mechanized infantry division performed the exercise at the Queshan Training Base of the Jinan Military Area Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Luo Yuan, a military expert with the Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA, said this exercise showed that the transparency of the Chinese army was increasing and the Chinese army had become more self-confident and mature.

The foreign military leaders and observers are from Brunei, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The ranking officers include commander of the Brunei armed forces, chiefs of the general staff of the Philippines and Tajikistan, and the chief of staff of the Bangladesh army.

It is the first time the PLA invited so many foreign, high-ranking military officers to observe a Chinese military exercise. It is also the largest-scale military exercise open to foreign observers.

However, this is not the first time Chinese armed forces invited foreign servicemen to observe military exercises.

In August 25, 2003, for the first time, China invited foreign military observers from 15 countries to watch military maneuvers at China's largest tactical drill base. The event was aimed at introducing Chinese armed forces to the world and strengthening cooperation with foreign armed forces.

On Sept. 2 some 50 servicemen from China and abroad observed an amphibian landing exercise in Shanwei of south China's Guangdong Province.

At this event, the observers were military officials from France, Germany, Britain and Mexico, and Chinese and foreign students of China's University of National Defense.

At the same time, China set the principle of gradual participation in multilateral military exercises to broaden its cooperation with other countries. This principle was also put into practice by the frequent joint military exercises and high-level military cooperation.

Since 2002, China held joint military exercises with Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and France. These exercises involve non-security fields such as anti-terrorism, anti-smuggling, drug searches and sea rescue.

However, Iron Fist-2004 was carried out by a infantry division in the training base of the PLA.

"This shows military exchanges with foreign armed forces are shifting from non-traditional fields to the field of military security," Luo said.

Luo said this opens new channels for Chinese army to cooperate with foreign armed forces. China's armed forces, especially the land forces, used to be "mysterious" for foreigners.

Fan Yuegao, also an expert with the Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA, said this military exercise will show foreigners the PLA's prestige and courage.

The exercises should help eliminate the misunderstanding that some nations have formed about China and its military, Fan said.

Nine member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and four member countries of Shanghai Cooperation Organization were invited to this exercise.

"This shows that China attaches great importance to the cooperation with these two organizations and pushes the in-depth cooperation with them in security," Luo said.

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