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PLA drills around Taiwan break August record targeting US move

Source: Global Times by Liu Xuanzun

Resolute move demonstrates capabilities in simultaneous actions, island blockade: experts

The joint drills by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) around the island of Taiwan on Sunday in response to the recent escalation in the US-Taiwan collusion were record-breaking, surpassing even the peak number observed in the large-scale PLA drills held in August following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan, as the PLA again demonstrated its capabilities in blockading the island and shutting down all external interference attempts, experts said on Monday.

After announcing the cross-service joint combat alert patrols and joint fire strike exercises in maritime and aerial areas around the island of Taiwan on Sunday, the PLA Eastern Theater Command on Monday released a video documenting the operation.

Fighter jets, bombers and warships took part in the drills, and the warplanes were close enough to the island of Taiwan to see the island’s Central Mountain Range with the naked eye, according to the video.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and our operation aims to safeguard peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. We will take any necessary countermeasure,” a naval officer said in a radio broadcast on board a warship, the video shows.

The armed forces on the island of Taiwan were able to detect 71 PLA warplanes, and seven PLA warships were observed around the island from 6 am on Sunday to 6 am on Monday, according to a press release on Monday by the island’s defense authority.

Some 47 of the detected aircraft crossed the so-called median line of the Taiwan Straits and entered the island’s self-proclaimed “southwest air defense identification zone,” including 12 J-11 fighter jets, six Su-30 fighter jets, a CH-4 armed reconnaissance drone, six J-10 fighter jets, 18 J-16 fighter jets, a Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, a KJ-500 and a WZ-7 reconnaissance drone, the press release said.

This marked a record-breaking number in terms of PLA aircraft detected in the region, media on the island said.

The intensity of the drills surpassed, or was at least comparable with the peak number  during the PLA drills in August in response to Pelosi’s provocative visit on August 2, if taking vessels into account, observers said. 

On August 5, Taiwan’s defense authority reported sighting 68 PLA aircraft and 13 PLA vessels, and on August 7, it reported 66 PLA aircraft and 14 PLA vessels.

This showed that the PLA can organize such large-scale exercises repeatedly and at any time, and turn them into real actions when necessary, analysts said.

The drills came after US President Joe Biden on Friday signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, which marked the first time the US government will finance weapons for the island of Taiwan.

A large number of warplanes and warships were deployed in the drills right after the signing of the US National Defense Authorization Act, indicating that the PLA is ready to deal with emergencies at any time, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Monday.

The US’ financing of weapons to Taiwan island is a serious provocation that has crossed the bottom line, and the PLA’s drills were a response that showed its strong will and capability, Fu said.

Taiwan is an island close to the Chinese mainland, and through these drills, the PLA has displayed its capabilities in preventing external forces from coming in and Taiwan secessionists from going out, another Chinese mainland military expert told the Global Times, requesting anonymity.

The latest drills also coincided with several other ongoing major PLA activities, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier group’s drills in the West Pacific and the China-Russia joint naval exercise in the East China Sea.

The Liaoning aircraft carrier group has been conducting exercises in the West Pacific east of the island of Taiwan and south of Japan since December 16, having hosted about 180 carrier-based fighter jet and helicopter takeoff and landing exercises by Thursday, according to a press release by Japan’s Ministry of Defense Joint Staff on Friday.

From last Wednesday to this Tuesday, China and Russia are holding the Joint Sea 2022 naval drill in the East China Sea in a move to display the two sides’ determination and capability in strengthening efforts to jointly deal with maritime security threats, as well as safeguard international and regional peace and stability.

It shows that the PLA is capable of simultaneously conducting multiple major military activities in multiple regions, as well as surrounding the island of Taiwan from multiple directions, analysts said.