This Is Where China Conducted The Military Exercise It Advertised In The Middle Of The Standoff In Ladakh

This Is Where China Conducted The Military Exercise It Advertised In The Middle Of The Standoff In LadakhChinese tanks at high altitude. (China Military/eng.chinamil.com.cn)
Snapshot
  • An open source intelligence handle suggests that the exercise took place near Golmud, a town on the relatively-flat northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

Since the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh began in early May, the Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party and the crown jewel of China’s stodgy state news, has been putting out videos of highly choreographed videos of military maneuvers in what it says are high-altitude areas.

The English-language publication, intended to target opinion overseas, put out these videos on Twitter, a platform banned in China, to support the extreme bellicose and belligerent rhetoric against India in its pages.

One such propaganda video put out by the Global Times on Twitter in early June has helped satellite imagery experts to plot the location of the exercise.

The video shows, among other things, a large number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tanks and other armoured vehicles moving on flat terrain with mountainous features in the background.

An article, linked in the Tweet with the video, said the exercise took place in a “high-altitude northwestern” region of China.

Open source intelligence handle @detresfa_, along with Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis, suggest that the exercise took place near Golmud, a town on the relatively-flat northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

The map below shows the location of the town in China.

Location of Golmud in China. 
Location of Golmud in China. 

The military exercise that the Global Times was advertising in early June appears to have taken place close to a People’s Liberation Army base nearly 50 kilometres west of the Golmud Airbase, which lies west of the Golmud town.

Location of the PLA exercise advertised by the Global Times in June. (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)
Location of the PLA exercise advertised by the Global Times in June. (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)

The two analysts were able to identify the location of the exercise using the mountainous features visible in one of the shots in the video.

Location of the PLA exercise advertised by the Global Times in June. (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)
Location of the PLA exercise advertised by the Global Times in June. (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)

The deployment of troops from other parts of China may have taken place through the Golmud Airbase, which has a 4,800 meters long runway.

Between May and July, satellite images show, J-11/16 fighters of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force were deployed at the airbase.

A large number of camps are also visible close to the airbase, suggesting the presence of PLA troops.

Golmud Airbase (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)
Golmud Airbase (@SimTack,@detrasfa_)

Golmud, one of the largest towns on the Tibetan Plateau, holds great strategic importance for the PLA.

It is the most important node in a corridor that contains the critical infrastructure required on the Tibetan Plateau — the 1,076-km-long Golmud–Lhasa oil product pipeline, the optical fiber cable from Lanzhou (Gansu Province) to Lhasa, and the high-voltage power line to Lhasa also pass through this town.

The high-elevation Qinghai–Tibet rail line, that connects Lhasa with the Chinese mainland, passes through the town of Golmud.

“The first phase of the railway, stretching from Xining, capital of Northwest China's Qinghai Province to Golmud, also in Qinghai, started operation in 1984, while the second phase, from Golmud to Lhasa, capital of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, was completed in 2006,” an article in the Global Times on the critical Qinghai–Tibet rail line published in 2018 says.

Then Chinese President Hu Jintao had inaugurated the Golmud Station in 2006.

When the Xining-Golmud section (first phase) was opened in the early 1980s, only military movement was allowed on the rail line.

The town of Golmud is also being linked to Xinjiang through the 1,213-kilometre Golmud-Korla railway line expected to open later this year.

Highways linking Golmud to Lhasa and Xinjiang are already operational.

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