PLA starts real combat-oriented drills in Taiwan Straits amid Krach’s visit
Global Times


The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is holding joint maritime and aerial exercises and combat-readiness patrols in the region starting Friday, as media on the Taiwan island reported concentrated PLA warplane activities near the island's "airspace" in four directions around the island on Friday morning. The news came against the backdrop of US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach's visit in Taiwan island and he will reportedly attend the memorial service for former Taiwan regional leader Lee Teng-hui, known as "Godfather of Taiwan secessionism."

The PLA operations have multiple dimensions that make secessionists on the island a turtle in a jar, and the PLA can turn the exercises into real action any time if Taiwan secessionists insist on their obduracy, Chinese mainland experts said on Friday.

Starting Friday, the PLA Eastern Theater Command is conducting real combat-oriented exercises near Taiwan Straits, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense, told the Global Times at a press conference on Friday.

The move, which targets the current cross-Straits situation, is legitimate and necessary action the mainland has taken to protect its sovereignty and integrity, Ren said.

He said Taiwan island is an inalienable part of China and the Taiwan question is China's domestic matter in which outside powers should not interfere. The US and Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party have recently colluded to make fuss and their attempt to either use the island to contain China or raise the island's status is doomed to fail.

"The PLA has the firm willingness, full confidence and enough capability to defeat all outside forces that interfere with the Taiwan question and conduct separatist actions to protect national sovereignty and integrity," Ren said.

PLA Eastern Theater Command soon after released a statement, announcing that the command is holding combat-readiness patrols and joint aerial and maritime drills in the Taiwan Straits in order to test its joint combat capability and multi-forces integration.

"The operations are a necessary measure in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Straits, and will enhance the troops' capability in safeguarding the national unity and territorial integrity," said Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, the command spokesperson.

The troops will resolutely carry out their duties, have confidence in thwarting any "Taiwan independence" secessionist attempt by anyone, any force in any way, Zhang said.

Chinese mainland military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Friday that the mainland military spokespersons used three different expressions in describing the operations, namely real combat-oriented exercises, combat-readiness patrols and joint aerial and maritime drills, which showed the exercises this time are multidimensional.

The real combat-oriented, joint aerial and maritime drills mean that the PLA is practicing in key areas of a real battle, while the combat-readiness patrols are operations aimed at preparing for combat anytime if anomalies occur on the island, Song said.

Media on the Taiwan island reported early on Friday that a large number of PLA warplanes were spotted in the "airspace" of Taiwan in four different directions, namely southwest, west, north and northwest, at altitudes ranging from 5,700 meters to 8,400 meters, within just one hour on Friday morning.

The report claimed that the military on the island attempted to use radio broadcast to drive away the PLA aircraft, and according to the broadcast, the PLA operations approached Taiwan's "airspace," instead of "air zone" or "air defense identification zone" that include regions farther away from the island.

This means the PLA has the capability to attack the secessionists on the island from multiple directions at the same time, making them "turtles in a jar" that are easy to catch, Chinese mainland observers said.

Not only in these four directions, the PLA should also surround Taiwan from its east, Song said, noting that this training showed the PLA is practicing realist tactics that can be turned into the real thing when necessary.

Taiwan is a part of China, and the PLA has the right to approach its "airspace," Song stressed.

Some military observers said, by normalizing large-scale exercises, the PLA can assemble troops near Taiwan and launch a sudden attack during exercises. But Song said that while the PLA has that capability, it will likely not use this method, but give an ultimatum to the Taiwan secessionists before doing it.

If the secessionists insist on their obduracy, then the PLA could turn the exercises into real actions and reunify the island, Song said, noting that the PLA is a force of peace, and will only use military means to solve the Taiwan question when all other approaches have failed.

US interactions with Taiwan

The news on the PLA's live-fire exercises came when US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach is paying a visit to Taiwan island from Thursday for "economic talks."

The US has increased its provocation to try to push back China's bottom line on the Taiwan question in recent days. On Thursday, US Representative Tom Tiffany introduced legislation calling for the US to resume formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and end the outdated and counter-productive one-China policy.

Echoing Tiffany's bill, some US research fellows also said that questioning the "ambiguous" nature of America's commitment to Taiwan's defense has gone mainstream as under this "strategic ambiguity" Taiwan island could not be sure the US would come to its defense, and the mainland could not be sure the US wouldn't.

However, Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said that it is still unknown and too early to say Washington would cast away the one-China policy as it has concerns over the mainland's possible reactions and whether it has enough capability to "protect" Taiwan militarily.

But the US has ramped up efforts in playing Taiwan cards on military and diplomacy - sending reconnaissance planes across the Taiwan Straits, sending senior officials to visit Taiwan and intending to expanding arm sales to the island. In response, the PLA has organized several exercises.

Some US politicians, including Tiffany, have also came forward to make tough remarks on Taiwan question, hoping to get personal political gains and public attention. The US also hyped the "ending of ambiguity toward Taiwan" to coax the DPP and separatists in Taiwan island, making them more willing to be a pawn. But they should also know that the mainland has maintained military superiority in seas and airspace around the island, Lü said.

Once the US and the separatists in the island cross the bottom line, the mainland would not hesitate to enact its Anti-Secession Law and take back the island by military force, he noted.