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China: PLA conducts nuclear, chemical, biological warfare drill in Tibet

Source : Hindustan Times

China: PLA conducts nuclear, chemical, biological warfare drill in Tibet
Soldiers and vehicles of China’s People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps march during a drill in Taonan, Jilin province. (REUTERS/FILE)

A joint military brigade of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has recently carried out a “real combat drill” involving anti-nuclear, chemical and biological warfare in Tibet in the backdrop of the ongoing Sino-India border tension in eastern Ladakh.

The exercise, including commandos, armoured assault groups and soldiers trained for chemical warfare were drawn from various wings of the army. It was organised by the Tibet military region under the Western theatre command (WTC), the largest of China’s five commands that is responsible for the Sino-India disputed border, extending for 3,488 km from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

The news of the 24-hour long exercise held in late November was published in an official PLA news portal on Tuesday.

Chinese official military media rarely mentions drills that involve Chinese armed forces and non-conventional weapons.

The article described in brief the nature of the drill and what the participating soldiers were responding to but did not specifically mention where the exercise was held. “A joint military brigade under the Tibet military area command held a real-combat drill on a snowy plateau in late November,” the article said.

It was headlined: “A synthetic brigade of the Tibet military region carried out a cross-day and night mobile multi-arm coordinated actual combat drill”.

After rockets were launched and the armoured assault group was deployed, army engineers were called in to install explosives on the targeted “obstacle”, the article said.

Subsequently, the commanding officer warned of “nuclear, biological and chemical attack”. “Encountered a nuclear, biological and chemical attack! Suddenly, an immediate guidance command came. Li Qunfeng, commander of the third battalion, put on gas masks, quickly passed through the poisoned zone, and then reported the situation to the command post, requesting the chemical defence detachment to help and decontaminate.”

“The drill closely focused on the ‘enemy’ situation, focusing on key and difficult subjects such as day and night manoeuvring and multi-arms coordination, and tempered the firepower attack capability of the troops in complex environments,” the report added.

The report carried photos of the exercise including one in which soldiers were wearing gas masks.

In a report in November, the US department of defence said China is carrying out research in chemical and biological dual-use technology.

“The PRC has engaged in biological activities with potential dual-use applications, which raise concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” the report said.

“Studies conducted at PRC military medical institutions discussed identifying, testing, and characterising diverse families of potent toxins with dual-use applications.”

“Based on available information, the US cannot certify that the PRC has met its obligations under the CWC due to concerns regarding the PRC’s research of pharmaceutical-based agents (PBAs) and toxins with potential dual-use applications,” the US report added.

The drill in November is likely to have been closely followed by the Indian defence establishment.

It is part of the PLA’s continuous efforts to remain combat ready along the Sino-India border, where it is said to have deployed an unknown number of troops – estimates run into thousands – and heavy cache of advanced weaponry.

The PLA has published how it has improved the facilities and living conditions for its border troops in high-altitude areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, indicating that they have been deployed for the long-run.

Indian and Chinese militaries have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh since May, 2020, when a violent clash in Pangong lake area led to both sides gradually deploying tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry along the border.

Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks have only resulted in partial disengagement of troops until now.

Soldiers were killed on both sides in a brutal fight on the night of June 15 at Galwan Valley.

India has repeatedly and consistently rejected China’s allegations that Indian troops crossed over to the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, asserting that New Delhi has always taken a responsible approach towards border management and maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

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