When Chinese and Japanese fighters met for the first time over disputed islands in the East China Sea earlier this month, Japan promptly declared its right to fire tracers at China's jets.
Though met with outrage by China at the time, Japan continues promoting the live firing which Chinese military academics are calling the "first shot."
The Tokyo AP reports Japan believes it's simply following protocol:
“Every country has procedures for how to deal with a violation of its territory that continues after multiple cautionary measures,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Wednesday when asked if tracer shots would be fired against intruding aircraft that refuse to change course. “We have response measures ready that are consistent with global standards.”
If Japan is using the talk of tracer fire to gauge Chinese reaction, the tactic worked.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Sunday his country is on "high alert" and that Japan and the U.S. are ignoring the fact that " the islands are China’s inherent territory."
Never to be left out, Chinese military academics quoted in Beijing's state-run media provided far more fiery replies:
“Japan’s desire to fire tracer warning shots as a way of frightening the Chinese is nothing but a joke that shows the stupidity, cruelty and failure to understand their own limitations,” Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences was quoted saying by the China News Service and other state media.
“Firing tracer bullets is a type of provocation; it’s firing the first shot,” he said. “Were Japan to dare to fire tracers, which is to say fire the first shot, then China wouldn’t stint on responding and not allow them to fire the second shot.”
China then released photos of its East Fleet 052 destroyer during live fire exercises in the disputed area. The maneuvers involved both its East and South Fleets, simulating actual combat scenarios. Including multiple jet fighters and surface vessels, The South China Morning Post reports it as the first time naval air forces employed air-to-air missiles so far out to sea.
The second massive drill involving the South Fleet January 8, included Hong-6 bombers flying eight hour runs while evading radar and electromagnetic interference as they'd encounter in combat. One Beijing based naval expert said the drills would only increase in frequency and scope, and include other factions of the People's Army.
That appears to be accurate as China's also announced its army aviation unit of attack helicopters will shift from a logistics mission in preparation for combat.
The Times of India quotes the PLA Daily, China's official military newspaper:
The unit will work on major missions such as long-distance tasks, large scale offshore operations, attack coordination with other units and large scale airborne operations, it said, adding that the unit will also aim to improve its operation capability based on IT technologies.
The English PLA Daily army section has several announcements related to its helicopter units, their accelerated training, and even troops psychological readiness for "military transportation in high-tech wars".
Finally, because war preparation takes many forms, China's Communist Party news site the Global Times reports Beijing's new subway lines are fully online and able to withstand chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The tunnels have gates that form a seal between below ground and the street.
From the Global Times:
Jiang Hao, an engineer from the 4th Engineer Design & Research Institute of General Staff Department, said that the gates for civil defense have already been used in the subway in cities like Nanjing in Jiangsu Province and Shenyang in Liaoning Province.
"The new facilities also have other defensive capabilities like emergency communication equipment at each station, which makes effective communication possible during a conflict," Jiang said at the conference.
Of course, this may all be a matter of course as China exercises its financial ability and modernizes its military and infrastructure.
But there is little chance the disagreement over the disputed islands will quiet down any time soon with such intransigent claims of ownership coming from both countries. The feud also arrives as Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe , is eager to demonstrate a more assertive Japanese presence in the area.
With entirely new regional dynamics at work, it's difficult to say how much of this back-and-forth is posturing, and how much is some kind of mad inexorable WWI-like slide toward the unthinkable.
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