Record PLA exercise ‘warns Taiwan secessionists, US carrier activity’

(Global Times) 13:26, June 17, 2021

Two Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber fly in formation on May 11, 2018. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force conducted patrol training over China's island of Taiwan on Friday. Su-35 fighter jets flew over the Bashi Channel in formation with the H-6Ks for the first time, which marks a new breakthrough in island patrol patterns, said Shen Jinke, spokesperson for the PLA air force.Photo:China Military

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly dispatched on Tuesday a record-breaking fleet of warplanes to conduct an exercise surrounding the island of Taiwan, with analysts saying on Wednesday that the drill indicated a stronger control over the Taiwan Straits by the PLA, and sent a strong signal to the Taiwan secessionists and their Western supporters following recent provocations, as well as to the activity by a US aircraft carrier near the region.

A total of 28 PLA aircraft, namely 14 J-16 fighter jets, 6 J-11 fighter jets, four H-6 bombers, two KJ-500 early warning aircraft, a Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft and a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, entered the island of Taiwan's self-proclaimed southwestern air defense identification zone on Tuesday, with some flying through the Bashi Channel to the eastern side of the island, media on the island reported on the same day, citing the island's defense authorities.

This marked the largest number of aircraft in a single day in the PLA's routine exercise in the region since the island started to track and publish similar PLA activities in September 2020, the reports said.

The expanded exercise indicates the PLA's enhanced combat capability, as the PLA has gained greater control over the Taiwan Straits, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Some reports linked the PLA exercise to the G7 summit, which ended on Sunday and issued a communiqué extending support to the secessionists in the island of Taiwan. The exercise is also the first large-scale one following the recent US provocation of sending a military transport aircraft to the island.

Wei said that Taiwan secessionists are eager to interact with the US to gain a feel of security, but the US is giving them only a rubber check to take advantage of them to provoke and contain the Chinese mainland. "Facing the mighty PLA that safeguards the national unity, these attempts are bound to fail."

"We will not allow anyone to separate Taiwan from China in any way," Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a regular press conference on Wednesday, when asked about the PLA exercise.

On Monday, the Ronald ReaganCarrier Strike Group of the US Navy sailed through the Bashi Channel and entered the South China Sea, according to the monitoring of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank.

The US aircraft carrier is flexing its muscle and provocatively creating instability near China, Wei said, noting that the PLA exercise near Taiwan, which came only one day after and was very close to the course of the US carrier group, and could be seen as a response that demonstrates the PLA's capabilities.

China's determination and will in safeguarding its core national interests over topics including those relating to Taiwan and the South China Sea are unswerving, said Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at the 8th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus on Wednesday.

In a separate development, the PLA 73rd Group Army and the Eastern Theater Command Navy recently held a series of exercises featuring vehicles and amphibious landing ships, with the aim of enhancing the troops' cross-sea delivery capabilities, the command said in a statement released on Tuesday.

(Web editor: Guo Wenrui, Hongyu)


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