PLA Drills Around Taiwan Targeted at US Lawmakers’ Visit

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command on Friday organized multi-services and arms, dispatching forces including destroyers, frigates, bombers and fighters, and conducted joint combat alert patrols and drills including maritime assault, in the forefront of the East China Sea and in waters and aerial areas around the island of Taiwan, when a group of US lawmakers were visiting the island. Chinese mainland experts said the pointed military operation not only serves as a warning to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who could still visit Taiwan after “postponing” her travel due to COVID-19 infection, but also goes beyond deterrence by preparing for potential, real actions that would resolve the Taiwan question once and for all when necessary.

The operation targets the US’ recent wrong signals on the Taiwan question, as the US’ wicked tactics are totally useless and dangerous, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said on Friday in a press release.

“Those who play with fire will burn themselves. The command troops always maintain high alert and will firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security and regional peace and stability,” Shi said.

Six PLA aircraft – four J-16 fighter jets and two J-11 fighter jets – entered Taiwan’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone on Friday, the island’s defense authority said.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a press release on Friday that US congressmen visited the island of Taiwan in a deliberate provocation disregarding China’s strong opposition. The visit severely violated the one-China principle and the regulations of the Three Joint Communiqués between China and the US, seriously harmed the political foundation of China-US ties, and caused a further escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Straits.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command’s joint combat alert patrols and pointed drills are necessary actions taken based on the current security situation in the Taiwan Straits and the needs to safeguard national sovereignty, Wu said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said clearly that Friday’s military operation was targeted at the US congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan island.

The PLA is ready for battle and will take any necessary measure to resolutely crush attempts of interference by external forces and secessionist moves of “Taiwan independence” forces, in order to resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Wu said.

The remarks by the spokespersons came after a delegation composed of six US congressmen arrived in Taiwan for a stopover that analysts said targets the Chinese mainland with the “Taiwan card” and aims for more military sales to the island by hyping “mainland threats.”

Veteran anti-China politicians like Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, and Republican member of the Senate budget committee Lindsey Graham were the two notable names in the delegation. They met with the island’s regional leader Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.

Spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council also slammed the US congressmen’s Taiwan visit on Friday.

Beyond deterrence

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Friday that the PLA’s operation is a large-scale joint combat exercise organized by the Eastern Theater Command and participated by not only the Navy and Air Force, but also likely other military arms and branches.

It covered a wide region and was pointedly designed to solve the Taiwan question, including taking over the air superiority and the control of the sea, and all of the missions are integrated together, Song said. In addition to waters and aerial areas around the island of Taiwan, the drills also covered the forefront of the East China Sea, and that is because the PLA not only would need to take military actions against “Taiwan independence” forces and their armed forces, it might also have to face the potential military intervention by the US and Japan, he pointed out.

The drills aimed to crush the reckless secessionist illusions, Song said, noting that attempts to deter Taiwan secessionists and their US support now seem to have little effect, and that is why the PLA has to prepare for a real military conflict, and if secessionists and their supporters cross the red line stated by the Anti-Secession Law, the PLA will resolutely turn the exercises and all of the plans into action, and solve the Taiwan question once and for all.

If the US or Taiwan secessionists insist on making further provocations, the PLA could expand the drills in terms of both quality and quantity by adding more forces and more training courses, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Friday, requesting anonymity.

Friday’s patrols and drills mainly practiced taking control of air superiority and the sea and likely did not feature actual landing, as no amphibious landing ships were involved. It is also unknown if the drills practiced long-range precision strikes by the Army’s long-range rocket artillery and the Rocket Force’s DF ballistic and CJ cruise missiles, while the Navy’s two aircraft carriers likely did not participate, observers said.

It is only a matter of time for the PLA’s most powerful equipment including the J-20 stealth fighter jets and aircraft carriers to join drills around Taiwan, analysts said.

There is still room for the PLA to be better prepared for battle, and the secessionists and external forces should have a clear idea that the PLA has overwhelming advantages within the first island chain, the expert said.

Earlier this month, media reports suggested that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could visit the island of Taiwan on April 10. But she then said she tested positive for COVID-19 and had to “postpone” her Asia trip.

The PLA drills on Friday are also a warning to Pelosi, who could still visit Taiwan after her recovery. Analysts told the Global Times that more powerful measures from China await Pelosi if she does visit the island.

Compared with previous reactions by the PLA, Friday’s drills more concretely and clearly expressed China’s statement that it would use force to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity, Zhuo Hua, an international affairs expert at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday.

US politicians should fully realize the huge risks, as the China-US ties have entered a highly sensitive and complex period. It could be catastrophic to the peace and stability in East Asia if the US cannot contain its domestic faction struggle and makes more provocative moves related to the Taiwan question, Zhuo said.

Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University, told the Global Times on Friday that unlike previous announcements that said the PLA’s actions around the waters near the Taiwan island were routine, the Friday announcement said directly that the exercise was a response to the US’ provocations over the Taiwan question.

After the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine started, the US has intensified provocations over the Taiwan question as it wants to instigate a similar crisis on the island of Taiwan. The Chinese mainland should stay rational in the face of such strategy to prevent falling into the US’ trap, but at the same time, the mainland should also clearly and stoutly show its firm resolution and capacity to reunify the country when it is necessary, Wang note


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