By Liu Xuanzun

The defense authority on the island of Taiwan observed increased activities by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) this week ahead of planned “stopovers” in the US by a die-hard secessionist, and following irresponsible remarks by a former Japanese prime minister during his visit to Taiwan island.

A total of 33 PLA aircraft and six PLA vessels were detected around the island of Taiwan on Wednesday, with 10 of the detected aircraft including J-10 and J-16 fighter jets, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and a Y-9 communications countermeasures aircraft crossing the so-called median line of the Taiwan Straits or having entered the island’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone, the defense authority on the island said in a press release on Thursday.

According to the island’s defense authority, the PLA has ramped up regular exercises and patrols since Sunday. Sunday saw 24 PLA aircraft and seven PLA vessels operating around the island, Monday 11 aircraft and five vessels, and Tuesday also 11 aircraft and five vessels. These figures are well above the daily average, observers said.

The intensified PLA drills come at a time when “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and external interference forces are making increased provocations over the Taiwan question.

Lai Ching-te, a secessionist candidate for the island’s 2024 regional leader election, also current deputy regional leader, is scheduled to make “stopovers” in the US during his trip to Paraguay from Saturday to August 18. Such an event will worsen tension in the Taiwan Straits and mark another evidence of the US’ encouragement toward Taiwan secessionism, experts said.

Taro Aso, vice president of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party and a former prime minister of Japan, visited the island of Taiwan from Monday to Wednesday, when where he met with Taiwan’s regional leader Tsai Ing-wen, Lai and others as he called for a posture of strong deterrence and “a readiness to fight.”

PLA exercises around the island of Taiwan target “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and external interference forces and serve to safeguard national sovereignty and unity, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

They are not only a deterrent and a warning, but also real progress as the PLA enhances its combat capabilities, the expert said.