China is practicing for a "short, sharp war" with Japan.
That is the assessment of a top U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, who told colleagues that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently conducting training exercises in a practice scenario in which the military takes the Senkaku Islands, near Taiwan.
“We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross-military region enterprise,” Capt. James Fannell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLEET) said at the West 2014 conference on Feb. 13 in San Diego.
“[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 [islands] — as some of their academics say.”
It’s alleged that in the past year, China has increased its military activity, including high-profile actions in the South China Sea as well as combat drills in the south Philippine Sea.
Fannell's comments were reported by the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent professional association founded in 1873 which closely follows navy matters.
“There is growing concern that China’s pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained in the so-called 9-dash line despite the objections of its neighbors, and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law,” Fannell also said.
Japan has in recent months accused a Chinese warship of locking its missile-targeting radar onto one of its warships, Fannell noted. China first denied the claim, but later admitted it while downplaying any danger the incident posed.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said China has a habit of bullying its neighbors with intimidating military drills, though exercises aimed at Japan are a new and worrisome wrinkle.
“The Chinese have conducted training exercises aimed at Taiwan for decades--but haven't invaded,” Peters, also a Fox News military analyst, told FoxNews.com. “The latest Chinese exercises that appear to rehearse an invasion of the Senkaku Islands are probably in that vein: Military exercises as a show of strength, a closed-fist tool of diplomacy, and, yes, a threat, but not one on which Beijing really desires to act.”
Peters adds that the exercises are likely China’s attempt at posturing.
“At present, China would have a great deal to lose by attacking or otherwise provoking a confrontation with Japan,” he said. “At the same time, the Chinese feel they're the regional (and global) rising power and they rather enjoy flexing their muscles. You might say they're proud of their physique, but don't really want a fight. In that sense, these exercises are a strategic ‘selfie.’”
The PLA is not the only one with seemingly aggressive moves as of late. Fannell also mentioned at the West conference that the Chinese coast guard is engaged in “quasi-military actions.”
“Tensions in the South and East China Seas have deteriorated with the Chinese coast guard playing the role of antagonist, harassing China’s neighbors while PLA Navy ships, their protectors, (make) port calls throughout the region promising friendship and cooperation,” he said, adding that China has spent $1.6 million on improvements to outposts in the South China Sea including development of ports, airfields, water purification and surveillance systems.
The assessments made at the conference are in stark contrasts to recent US efforts to tighten military-to military ties with China.
The Navy’s head of operations, plans and strategy, Rear Adm. James Foggo said while on the same conference panel that there was a recent successful meeting between U.S. Navy officials and the head of the PLA’s naval forces.
A U.S. delegation also toured PLAN ships and submarines and is working out plans for the Chinese navy to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2014 (RIMPAC) exercise later this year.
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych