PLA holds joint live-fire assault drills near Taiwan island in direct response to collusion, provocations by US, secessionists

(Global Times) 08:22, August 18, 2021

The guided-missile destroyers Hohhot (Hull 161) and Wuhan (Hull 169), together with the guided-missile frigate Hengyang (Hull 568), steam in formation in an undisclosed sea area during a 4-day maritime real-combat training exercise on September 2, 2020. All the warships are attached to a naval destroyer flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Li Wei)

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Tuesday launched joint live-fire assault drills in multiple locations near the island of Taiwan as a direct response to the recent collusion and provocations made by the US and the Taiwan secessionists.

Experts said the exercises practiced a vital part of the future large-scale amphibious landing operations on the island that will see the PLA seize air superiority and control of the sea, and sent a clear and powerful warning to the US and the Taiwan secessionists on the 39th anniversary of the China-US August 17 Communiqué, in which the US promised to restrict arms sales to Taiwan but repeatedly broke its promise, and also at a time when the US military has lost credibility after its irresponsible, hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command on Tuesday dispatched warships, anti-submarine warfare aircraft and fighter jets in surrounding maritime and aerial areas near the southwest and southeast directions of the island of Taiwan for military exercises, including joint live-fire assaults, and also for testing the troops' integrated joint operation capabilities, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson of the command, announced on the same day.

The US and the Taiwan authorities have been frequently colluding and making provocations, sending wrong signals and severely violating China's sovereignty and seriously damaging peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. They have become the biggest security risk in the region, Shi said.

It is rare that the PLA names the US as a target of its military exercises, observers said.

The exercises are necessary, based on the current security situation in the Taiwan Straits and the need to safeguard national sovereignty, and are a solemn response to foreign interference and the provocations of "Taiwan independence" forces, the spokesperson said.

Judging from the spokesperson's statement, the exercises practiced an assault on the island by multiple PLA services and branches under the coordination of the Eastern Theater Command, and this could be seen as training for a large-scale amphibious operation, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

While amphibious landing operations often attract more attention, it is crucial to seize control of information, the sky and the sea prior to that, so that the landing troops can effectively carry out their missions, Song said, noting that the Tuesday exercises aimed to practice this key step.

A Chinese mainland expert told the Global Times on Tuesday on condition of anonymity that the drills likely practiced surgical precision strikes on designated targets within a short period of time.

Military observers have predicted that in a possible scenario in which the PLA reunifies the island of Taiwan by force, it would first launch electromagnetic and cyber warfare on the island, soft-killing many of its facilities, then rain down missiles and rockets on the island's military bases and ports, another Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

What the PLA practiced on Tuesday would come next, as warships and warplanes would seize control of the sea and air, destroy hostile vessels and aircraft that survived the initial wave of attacks, penetrate and neutralize hostile air defenses, further weaken hostile ground resistance, and lay down the foundation for the amphibious landing troops to come, the expert said.

In a real scenario, more types of warships and warplanes, including aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and bombers, will also participate, analysts said.

The PLA has been practicing amphibious landings in recent weeks as well, official media reports show. This included a full-scale exercise on gathering of heavy equipment on land, cross-sea maneuvering, logistics support, beach assault and multidimensional joint attacks by the PLA's 71st Group Army, an equipment loading and unloading exercise with civilian ships involving multiple types of military vehicles by the 72nd Group Army, a series of live-fire amphibious armored assault exercises in waters off the southeastern coastline of Fujian by the 73rd Group Army, helicopter cross-sea assault exercises by the 74rd Group Army and a long-distance cross-sea maneuvering exercise by the PLA Navy Marine Corps.

In Tuesday's drills, the PLA surrounded the island of Taiwan from the southwest and southeast directions. This allows the PLA to not only attack the island from two directions, but also rule out the chance that foreign forces could come to the secessionists' rescue, analysts said.

To the southwest and southeast of the island of Taiwan are the Taiwan Straits and the Bashi Channel, respectively. This means the US and its allies would have to break the PLA's blockade to reinforce the island of Taiwan from the South China Sea, Song said, noting that under this consideration, the PLA would also need to surround the island from more directions, including the east, in a potential war.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command will continue to boost its war preparedness and related training, and is determined to crush and capable of crushing any "Taiwan independence" secessionist activities and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Shi said.

Other PLA forces, including the Southern Theater Command, will also join the fight in a coordinated manner to completely resolve the Taiwan question if it comes to that point, Song said.

Earlier this month, the PLA conducted a military exercise in a vast area in the South China Sea, stretching from waters off the southeast of Hainan Island to a majority of waters around the Xisha Islands amid the US' large-scale military exercises targeting China. Experts said at that time that the PLA's exercises aimed to warn the US and its allies, showing on a strategic level that China is not afraid of anyone.

Direct warning

The PLA usually does not name the targets of its exercises, and used to say exercises were not related to any situation and were not pointed at a third party, despite media outlets, observers and even some official figures often make suggestions saying otherwise.

But under the current situation that the US and Taiwan secessionists have been making rampant provocations, there is no need for this ambiguity, and the PLA is making it clear that it will take resolute measures to resolve the Taiwan question if secessionists in the island and foreign forces tread on the bottom line, , Song said.

The Taiwan question will not last forever, Song remarked.

Since Joe Biden assumed the presidency, the US has made provocations including repeatedly sending warships through the Taiwan Straits, landing military transport aircraft on the island of Taiwan, approving a potential sale of M109A6 howitzers to the island, and holding their first joint coast guard drills with the island, while the "Taiwan independence" forces recently made some fresh secessionist moves, including announcing the establishment of a representative office in Lithuania.

John Cornyn, a member of US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, revealed on social media on Tuesday that the US has 30,000 soldiers stationed on the island of Taiwan. While this information remains questionable, it would lead to an immediate reunification-by-force operation by the PLA if it turns out to be true, since this would mean a US military invasion on China, observers said.

The PLA's exercises on Tuesday also coincided with the 39th anniversary of the China-US August 17 Communiqué, in which the US promised to restrict arms sales to the island of Taiwan.

But the truth is the US broke its promise repeatedly, undertook "official" exchanges with China's Taiwan region, sold all types of weapons to Taiwan and helped Taiwan expand its so-called international space, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a routine press conference on Tuesday.

It is the common wish of all Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan question and realize the complete reunification of the country, Hua said, noting that no one should underestimate the Chinese people's determination, strong will and powerful capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, recently claimed at the Aspen Security Forum that the US "is capable of assisting and defending Taiwan in the event of a military crisis," US military newspaper the Stars and Stripes reported on August 6.

This remark, however, should not be trusted at all when facing the PLA's overwhelming power, as shown in exercises, not to mention that the US military has already lost its credibility following its irresponsible, hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan which has sparked fear among Taiwan secessionists, that they would soon face the same fate, observers said.

The PLA's exercises took place right after the Taliban took full control of Afghanistan following the US' troop withdrawal, and this would be a strong shock to Taiwan secessionists who are now weighing the reliability of the US, Song said. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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