In 2010 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) established eight nuclear, chemical and biological (NBC) emergency teams to act as the focal point for NBC readiness and emergency intervention. Since then little has been heard of them outside China – which makes the recent announcement of a unique military exercise even more interesting.
In recent weeks, a simulation exercise has been conducted by the PLA’s maritime NBC team, centred on an unnamed port in the northeastern province of Liaoning. The several scenarios comprising the exercise included chemical attacks on the port as well as exercising the team in the requirements of a systems denied environment following the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear detonation. Comments appearing in Chinese press outlets indicate the exercise was used primarily for planning purposes by PLA senior staff.
China’s coastline extends for 14,500km, stretching from the Gulf of Bohai in the north to the Gulf of Tonkin in the south. Of the nation’s 2,000 ports, several rank among the world’s largest container facilities and China has expanded its container capacity to become the world’s leading provider. Over 130 of the ports are open to foreign vessels and the PLA has long considered port security one of its primary defence concerns.