Chinese forces surround Taiwan as live-fire drills begin

China’s military’s Eastern Theater Command said it conducted long-range live-fire training in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Earlier in the day, Chinese state media said exercises to simulate an air and sea “blockade” around Taiwan began on Wednesday, but provided little solid evidence to support the claim.

The military posture was a deliberate show of force after Pelosi left the island on Wednesday evening, bound for South Korea.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said its military remained in a “normal” but cautious posture, and called the live-fire drills an “irrational act” that attempted to “change the status quo”.

“We are closely monitoring enemy activities around the Taiwan Sea and the outer islands, and we will act appropriately,” the ministry said in a statement.

Exercises exerting pressure

Long before Pelosi’s nearly 24-hour visit to Taiwan, China had warned that his presence was unwelcome. The ruling Chinese Communist Party claims the self-governing island as its own territory, although it has never controlled it.

China has released a map showing six areas around Taiwan that would be the site of exercises in the coming days. But on Thursday Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau said in a notice that China had added a seventh military exercise area for ships and aircraft to avoid “in the waters around eastern Taiwan.”

Chinese state media on Thursday outlined a wide range of objectives for the drills, including strikes on land and sea targets.

“The exercises (are) focused on key training sessions, including joint blockade, assaulting maritime targets, striking ground targets and airspace control operation, and capabilities joint combat troops have been tested in military operations,” said an announcement by the Xinhua News Agency assigned the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command, which is responsible for areas near Taiwan.

Chinese military helicopters fly over Pingtan Island in Fujian Province on August 4.

Meanwhile, the Global Times tabloid said the drills involved some of China’s newest and most sophisticated weapons, including J-20 stealth fighters and DF-17 hypersonic missiles, and some missiles could be fired at over the island – a decision that would be extremely provocative.

“The drills are unprecedented as the PLA’s conventional missiles are expected to fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time,” the Global Times said, citing experts.

“The PLA forces will enter areas within 12 nautical miles of the island and the so-called median line will cease to exist.”

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Taiwan’s accounts of Chinese military movements included the warplanes crossing the median line and a report by Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency, citing government sources, that two of the largest warships China’s powerful – the Type 55 destroyers – were spotted off the center line on Tuesday. central and southeast coast of the island, the nearest being less than 37 miles (60 kilometers) from land.

But there was little corroboration or hard evidence provided by China to support the kind of claims published in the Global Times.

Chinese state television broadcast a video of fighter jets taking off, ships at sea and missiles moving, but the filming dates of this video could not be verified.

Some analysts were skeptical of Beijing’s ability to achieve what they threatened, such as a blockade of Taiwan.

“The official announcement (of the blockade) only refers to a few days, which would make it difficult to actually call it a blockade,” said Alessio Patalano, professor of warfare and strategy at King’s College London.

“Blockades are difficult to execute and time-consuming to implement. This exercise is not that,” he said.

Patalano said the biggest impact of the exercises would be psychological.

“During the period in question, ships and aircraft will likely reorient themselves to avoid the area, but that is one of the main purposes of the chosen locations: to create disruption, discomfort and fear of the worst to come.” , did he declare.

Chinese military helicopters hover over Pingtan Island, one of the closest points to Taiwan in mainland China, on August 4, 2022.

Diversion of planes and ships

China’s retaliatory exercises have already disrupted flight and ship schedules in Taiwan, although the island is trying to mitigate their impact.

Taiwan’s transport minister said agreements had been reached with Japan and the Philippines to redirect 18 international flight routes from the island – affecting about 300 flights in total – to avoid PLA live-fire exercises.

And on Wednesday, Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau issued three notices, asking ships to use alternative routes for seven ports around the island.

Live-fire exercises planned by China were also causing unease in Japan.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said the drills posed a threat to his country’s security.

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One of the six exercise areas set up by China was near the Japanese island of Yonaguni, which is part of Okinawa prefecture and just 110 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan.

This same Chinese exercise area is also close to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited rocky range known as the Diaoyus in China, and over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

“In particular, a training area has been set up in the waters near Japan, and if China were to conduct live ammunition drills in such an area, it could affect the safety of Japan and its people,” Matsuno said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military remained silent on the Chinese drills and offered no response to questions from CNN on Thursday.

Pelosi met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on August 3.

In addition to closely monitoring Chinese military movements around the island, Taiwan has also said it will strengthen security against cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.

Taiwanese cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told a press conference on Wednesday that the government has tightened security at key points in the infrastructure and increased the level of cybersecurity vigilance in offices. of the government.

Taiwan expects increased “cognitive warfare”, referring to disinformation campaigns used to sway public opinion, Lo said.

CNN’s Wayne Chang and Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

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