BEIJING -- The Chinese military has established a joint command center for air and naval forces to keep close watch over the country's air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, according to media reports.
Its purpose is apparently to monitor Japanese defense force activity in the zone.
Operating independently of China's seven air force zones and three naval fleets, the command center is expected to have some 300 fighter jets at its disposal.
It will have greater strength than Japanese Air Self-Defense Force units in Okinawa, according to the online edition of Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper in Hong Kong. This suggests that the command center's mission is to counter Japan.
China is conducting live-fire military exercises this week along a wide stretch of its coast, including the East China Sea. Unusual in their extent, the drills may be a test of the new command center, some observers say.
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the start of the First Sino-Japanese War. Tensions between the neighbors remain elevated after a spate of encounters in the East China Sea, including multiple incidents in which Tokyo accused Chinese fighters of buzzing Japanese SDF planes. Japan wants to create a bilateral hotline soon to try preventing accidental maritime clashes but has met with persistent wariness on the Chinese side.