US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has triggered the most acute crisis in the Taiwan Strait in decades. In response to the controversial visit, the Chinese military has been conducting military drills and recording breakthroughs never seen before, according to Chinese state-affiliated media.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) experienced ten firsts during the military exercise in early August, according to “Yuyuan Tantian,” a Chinese social media platform connected to China Media Group, CGTN has reported.
In a speech last week, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen condemned China’s military drills as “irresponsible,” saying they marked a “deliberate and continuous escalation of military threats, “adding that Taiwan did not seek to escalate conflicts or provoke disputes but would firmly defend its sovereignty and national security.
China took an extreme objection to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan since it was seen as an infringement of the One China principle. Perhaps, the aggressive response was partly due the US President Joseph Biden’s previous comments that his country would intervene militarily if China launched an invasion.
The United States overwhelmingly supplies Taiwan’s military with systems ranging from fighter jets to air defense systems. In stark contrast to Taipei’s call for sovereignty, China remains adamant about reunification and with force if necessary.
While China regularly sends its warplanes to intrude into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), a high-profile US visit has resulted in Beijing taking on the most aggressive avatar in decades. Two days after Pelosi’s visit, PLA was ready to carry out military drills in six locations encircling Taiwan.
Wang Yi, the foreign minister and state councilor of China, said in the aftermath of the US Speaker’s visit that it will not reverse the historical trend of Taiwan’s return to the motherland.
This has been followed by outright aggressive Chinese drills that the Chinese social media and state-linked media have listed as “10 breakthroughs” made by PLA.
Ten Breakthroughs In The History Of The PLA
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted military drills in the six regions around the island, including one in the north and two in the south within Taiwan’s territorial waters. Chinese forces disregarded maritime boundaries between the two of them.
On August 5, ten Chinese vessels practiced actual warfare near Taiwan. The shoreline and mountains on the island could be seen from a warship, according to photos of the exercise obtained by the PLA Eastern Theater Command.
This was considered the first breakthrough by China as it reinforced that Taiwan is a part of China, allowing fleets of the PLA Navy to operate within China’s territorial waters. The blurring of maritime boundaries, however, could prove to be catastrophic.
The second breakthrough was considered the PLA Air Force troops seeing Taiwan’s coastline with naked eyes for the first time. On August 2, the Chinese warplanes came so close to the island that pilots could visually confirm its coastline and the Central Mountain Range.
This, like the warship drill, implied that the separatists’ so-called “Taiwan’s territorial air space” makes no real sense. As they landed in several locations throughout Taiwan Island, fighter planes, bombers, early warning aircraft, and electronic reconnaissance aircraft flew sorties to practice air superiority, cover and support, air strike, surveillance, and early warning.
A Su-30 fighter jet flew above Taiwan Island’s coastline with the Central Mountain Range in the distance in video footage published by the PLA Eastern Theater Command.
The video clip demonstrated that although there was a cloud in the emission region, the visibility range was not ideal. The pilots could still see the Central Mountain Range and the shoreline of Taiwan Island with bare eyes.
The third breakthrough was identified as China’s missiles flying over Taiwan. Dong Feng-15 (DF-15), DF-16, and the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle were reportedly used, according to videos published by Chinese news sites and official press releases from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and social media users.
China is anticipated to use the DF-15 and DF-16 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) to attack terrestrial targets.
Videos also showed what experts believe to be the PCL-191 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS), which may be extremely useful in a conflict with Taiwan and India. Surprisingly, however, the missiles flew over Taiwan.
Yuyuan Tantian lists the deployment of the J-20 stealth fighters in drills against Taiwan as a fourth breakthrough. The J-20, China’s newest fighter plane, made its public premiere during a military exercise involving Taiwan.
According to Yuyuan Tantian, the jet ended the United States’ monopoly on stealth fighter aircraft. It bridged the generational gap between the PLA Air Force and the world’s leading air forces. Yuyuan Tantian continued by saying that this drill was a tiny test for the J-20, but it put substantial psychological pressure on the Taiwan rebels.
A video released by China Central Television showed J-20 stealth fighter jets participating in the drills. They took off from an airfield with launchers of rockets and missiles also mobilizing under shades of the night. Against China’s superior air force, Taiwan wielded F-16V fighters.
The white-washing of the median line of Taiwan, considered a sacred boundary by it, was celebrated as the fifth breakthrough by the Chinese. According to Yuyuan Tahitian, the so-called “median line” in the Taiwan Straits only exists in separatists’ minds.
Before the drill, China warned ships and aircraft that six places near Taiwan would be targeted, five of which are on the eastern side of the so-called “median line” and the sixth directly across it. “Military training on the eastern side of the line will become normal shortly.”
The sixth and one of the most significant breakthroughs registered was the proximity between Taiwan and the location of drills. One of the drill’s six targets was only 20 kilometers from the island of Taiwan. In less than 30 seconds, a J-20 can easily cover 20 kilometers.
China has conducted several military drills in the recent past, with some hinting at an outright invasion practice but hasn’t come as close to the island state physically as this time around. Many experts believe that China is trying to send a loud and clear message to Taiwan, encouraged by the Russian invasion.
The seventh breakthrough identified in the article is rather intriguing and refers to the absence of foreign interference. During the military drills on August 4, the PLA attempted to fend off the foreign intrusion, according to the Eastern Theater Command.
One practice ground was located northeast of Taiwan, not far from the Japanese-controlled island of Okinawa. According to Yuyuan Tantian, who cited an unknown military source, if the United States and Japan desire to obstruct China’s unification efforts, they will send warplanes from the Okinawa military base. The Bashi Channel also had another area that prevented access to Taiwan from the South China Sea.
While the Japanese Prime Minister condemned China’s military drills and fired ballistic missiles close to its territory, no military interference was reported. Tokyo has a fleet of F-35s and F-15s ready to take on the Chinese if the need arises. The country also hosts American military bases.
A drilling zone was established to the east of the island for the first time, blocking the Taiwan rebels’ escape routes, and marking the eighth breakthrough. The PLA surrounded the island since this new territory was sealed, and there was nowhere to escape.
Ninth breakthrough: For the very first time in the history of the army, the PLA also sent aircraft carrier units to carry out deterrent operations. According to Zhang June, a researcher at the PLA Naval Research Academy, nuclear submarines typically go alongside the carriers during such missions.
The PLA Navy operates two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong. Zhang did not confirm which carrier participated in the drills or if both carriers had formed a dual-carrier group.
The PLA deployed all five forces—Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, and Strategic Support Force—for the first time in 2022. The army also deployed various weaponry, including missiles, long-range rocket launchers, fighter jets, and aircraft carriers. This marked the tenth breakthrough.
They also carried out various tasks, including joint blockade, deterrent, and action against air, sea, and land targets. This demonstrated that China’s reunification was necessary and would be accomplished, according to Yuyuan Tantian.