China's military on Wednesday said it held its first live-fire joint ground and air drills on the Tibetan plateau, likely setting off alarm bells in nervous neighbor India.
The exercises were held at an altitude above 15,420 feet (4,700 meters) and involved fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, artillery, tanks and electronic warfare units, the official People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper said.
No exact locations for the exercises or other details such as numbers of troops involved were given in keeping with usual military secrecy. Almost all the vast Tibetan plateau lies at or above 13,000 feet (4,000 meters).
The exercises stand to add to concerns in India over a Chinese military buildup in Tibet. The countries fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962 and continue to argue over territorial claims. More recently, New Delhi has complained that Chinese troops along the frontier have grown more aggressive and expressed concern over China's increasingly close ties to the military of India's archrival, Pakistan.
The drills are part of a strategy by Beijing to upgrade training _ increasingly involving the firing of real ammunition _ and the integration of air, land and sea assets following a two decade-long process of acquiring sophisticated new equipment, much of it from Russia.
The PLA Daily report said the exercises included precision strikes on simulated enemy command posts, artillery positions and other targets.
It said participants successfully overcame hardships related to the high altitude, low oxygen, and extreme cold.
"This is extremely significant in regards to exploring models for training in mountainous terrain and raising the overall level of systematized warfare," the newspaper said.
Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet shortly after the 1949 revolution that established the People's Republic and have been steadily upgrading their presence with new bases and infrastructure such as roads and airports.
(This version CORRECTS year of China-India war in paragraph 4 to 1962 instead of 1963)