China 'capable of attacking Japan islands'

ANNAPOLIS (Maryland) - China has long trained for a maritime invasion of Taiwan but has now expanded its capabilities to include a similar attack on Japanese holdings in the East China Sea, the deputy chief of intelligence and information operations of the United States Pacific Fleet (Pacfleet) was quoted as saying in a report on Tuesday.

Captain James Fanell said a massive exercise involving all branches of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) had taken place, according to the report carried by the US Naval Institute News.

"We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise - Mission Action 2013," he said at a conference last week in San Diego, California.

"(We) concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu (island) - as some of their academics say."

The Senkakus are under Japan's administrative control but are also claimed by China, which refers to them as the Diaoyu islands, while the Ryukyu islands (of which Okinawa is a part) extend from the southern tip of mainland Japan to Taiwan and host the US' biggest military bases in Asia.

Capt Fanell's remarks were made at a time of heightened tensions in the region.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his country is "very close" to completing an agreement to boost the number of US troops allowed into the country.

"I haven't been presented major sticking points, so I assume we are close to it," he said yesterday in an interview in his office in Manila, according to Bloomberg. "I won't say that we're a day away from it, but we're very, very close."

Officials from the Philippines and the US plan a sixth round of talks early next month.