In China, Taiwan


By Liu Xuanzun, Guo Yuandan and Fan Wei.
May 23, 2024, Global Times.

Outlying islands included in exercise to deter secessionist forces.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday morning launched a military exercise surrounding the island of Taiwan in a move aiming to punish “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and to send a warning to external interference forces following Taiwan regional leader Lai Ching-te’s separatist inaugural speech on May 20.

Designed to surround the island of Taiwan from both the east and the west, the exercises display the PLA’s strike capability across all directions of the island without any blind spots, forming a situation where the island is pinned down from both sides, experts said.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command started joint military drills surrounding the island of Taiwan from 7:45 am on Thursday, the theater command said in a press release early on the day.

The drills are being conducted in the Taiwan Straits, the north, south and east of Taiwan Island, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin, the theater command said, attaching a map depicting nine exercise zones surrounding the island of Taiwan.

Senior Captain Li Xi, a spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said that military services including the army, navy, air force and rocket force of the theater command are being organized to conduct the joint drills, code-named Joint Sword-2024A, from Thursday to Friday.

The drills focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrols, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets, Li said, adding that the exercises involve the patrol of vessels and planes closing in on areas around the island of Taiwan and integrated operations inside and outside the island chain to test the real joint combat capabilities of the command’s forces.

Li said the drills also serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces.

The exercises by the PLA came after Lai, the new regional leader on the island of Taiwan, made an inaugural speech on Monday in which he stubbornly adhered to “Taiwan independence,” loudly propagated the fallacy of secession, incited confrontation and antagonism across the Taiwan Straits, and expressed his intention to “rely on external forces to seek ‘independence'” and “seek ‘independence’ by force.”

Since then-US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to the island of Taiwan in August 2022, the PLA has organized several rounds of large-scale exercises as countermeasures to provocations by “Taiwan independence” secessionists and their collusions with external forces, in addition to holding regular patrols and training exercises in the region.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a routine press conference on Thursday that the joint exercises safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, forcefully punish “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces’ separatist moves, and firmly warn against interference and provocations by external forces.

The drills fully conform to international law and practices, and are completely rightful and necessary, Wang said.

Chen Binhua, spokesperson of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement on Thursday that the PLA drills are a resolute punishment for the Taiwan regional leader’s provocative May 20 speech that sought “independence,” a stern warning to external forces that support “Taiwan independence” and interfere in China’s internal affairs, and a rightful move to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tong Zhen, a research fellow at the Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA, told the Global Times on Thursday that the latest exercises feature an integrated plan covering the main island of Taiwan and its outlying islands.

For the outlying islands, the drills cover the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin, while for the main island of Taiwan, combat alert patrols surround the island, with warships and warplanes closing in on multiple locations only steps away from its coastlines, effectively pressuring the island’s so-called space for military defense, Tong said.

Meanwhile, in addition to the PLA’s exercises, the coast guard of East China’s Fujian Province on Thursday launched a comprehensive law enforcement exercise in waters around Wuqiu and Dongyin islands in a move to test its joint patrol, rapid reaction and emergency response capabilities, Gan Yu, a spokesperson of the China Coast Guard (CCG), said on Thursday in a press release.

A map illustrating the location of this exercise released by the CCG on Thursday shows that the Fujian Coast Guard 14606 flotilla circled around Wuqiu, coming as close as 2.8 nautical miles to Dawuqiu and three nautical miles to Xiaowuqiu. Meanwhile, in the direction of Dongyin island, the Fujian Coast Guard 14607 flotilla came as close as 3.2 nautical miles to Dongyin island. The actions in both directions effectively shattered the Taiwan authorities’ claim of so-called restricted waters.

It is the first time the mainland’s coast guard vessels have entered waters around Wuqiu and Dongyin islands, Tong said.

Designed to serve as a strong deterrence and warning, the exercise destroyed the notion of so-called restricted waters imposed by the island of Taiwan, Tong said.

“Wuqiu and Dongyin islands are outlying islands of the main island of Taiwan, with high strategic importance and high military value. They are close to the mainland and oversee key transportation routes in the Taiwan Straits. Taiwan’s military views them as the front line in their defense operations and a crucial point for implementing ‘multiple layers of deterrence’,” a source close to the matter told the Global Times on Thursday.

“The CCG is clearly issuing a warning that if the situation further deteriorates, the Kinmen model might be replicated in other areas of the Taiwan Straits,” the source said.

The joint operation conducted by China’s maritime law enforcement forces and various military branches of the PLA Eastern Theater Command in the Taiwan Straits undoubtedly holds historical significance, experts said.

The PLA’s exercises are designed with both the east and the west of the island of Taiwan in mind, Tong said. “To the west of the main island of Taiwan, the main operations are being held in waters around Wuqiu and Dongyin islands, while to the east of the main island, joint forces are organized to carry out sea and land assault drills, showing that the PLA has the ability to strike all directions of the island without any blind spots, forming a situation where the island is pinned down from both sides,” she said.

The exercises feature the acts of destroying, trapping and blocking in one move, experts said.

“Destroying means removing and paralyzing the support for the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces by simulating strikes on major military and political targets in the northern part of the island under the PLA’s strong reconnaissance, early warning and information support systems. Trapping means targeting the bases of the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, as the PLA will pinch the island’s maritime gateways such as Kaohsiung and trap the island’s naval forces within their ports. Blocking means cutting off external logistics support, as the PLA forces are carrying out simulated strikes in the sea and air near the offshore routes off Hualien, demonstrating the ability to seize power and control the island,” Tong said.

It forms a powerful deterrent against the separatist Lai administration and issues a serious warning against interference and provocation by external forces, Tong said.

Observers also noted that the codename of the exercise, Joint Sword-2024A, indicates that there might be more exercises to come with code-names Joint Sword-2024B and Joint Sword-2024C should “Taiwan independence” secessionists and external interference forces continue to make provocations.

‘Cross-Straits Lethality’

With the exercises underway, the PLA Eastern Theater Command released a set of posters themed “Cross-Straits Lethality,” depicting some of its weaponry aimed at “Taiwan independence” secessionists, including the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the J-16 multirole fighter jet, the Type 052D guided missile destroyer, the Type 071 comprehensive landing ship, the DF-16A short-range ballistic missile, and the modularized long-range multiple launch rocket system.

These are just some of the typical weapons and equipment in the military preparations for dealing with the Taiwan question, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

In the air, the J-20 can take advantage of its stealth capability and break down hostile air defenses, while the J-16 can drop a large number of munitions on ground targets; at sea; the Type 052D can seize control and block maritime access to the island, while the Type 071 can carry heavily equipped landing troops to cross the Straits; the DF-16A can conduct precision strikes on high-value military and political targets; and the modularized long-range multiple launch rocket system can ensure artillery fire superiority with relatively low cost, the above-quoted expert said.

Videos obtained by the Global Times on Thursday show dozens of warplanes, multiple destroyers and frigates of the PLA Eastern Theater Command encircling the island of Taiwan and its outlying islands, conducting mock strikes during the exercise.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command conducted sea assault, land attack, air defense and anti-submarine exercises in waters and air space north and south of Taiwan island on Thursday, according to the theater command’s spokesperson.

The PLA has a complete arsenal available to resolve the Taiwan question if prospects for peaceful reunification no longer exist, and the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and external interference forces should fully realize that the PLA is fully determined and capable of safeguarding China’s national sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, analysts said.

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