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Taiwan Strait Crisis – China Held Minesweeping Drills In The South China Sea As US Prepares To Send Warships

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted a five-day minesweeping exercise in the South China Sea. This is the fourth consecutive month the PLA navy has engaged in such drills.   

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The Type 082-II minesweepers Hejian and Chishui were part of a minesweeping brigade that carried out the mission. This seems to be the first maritime training exercise in which Hejian has participated since going into service.

The operation involved several ships and evaluated the formation’s planning, communications, and emergency response capabilities. The formation practiced launching mine-hunting equipment and artillery rounds.

The report also highlighted that the ships Hejian and Chishui successfully cleared out floating and underwater mine targets. 

China’s ability to locate mines is considered crucial to its mission in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions have risen this month due to Nancy Pelosi’s contentious visit to the island nation.

Meanwhile, the report also noted the Chinese ships came across an unknown foreign ship that they claimed was engaging in illegal fishing in the nearby waters. The formation warned and drove the foreign vessel away. 

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never ruled out using force to seize control. Most nations do not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, but many, including the US and its allies, criticize any attempt to annex it by force.

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Why Is China Conducting Such Drills 

These minesweeping drills are essential for the Chinese military to overcome Taiwan’s resistance efforts in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has been improving its capabilities to rapidly and automatically plant numerous small but potent mines without deploying divers. 

These capabilities are a part of a plan to thwart any potential invasion by China, which has a powerful military and a vastly superior arsenal of ships, aircraft, and other weapons. 

Min Jiang-class mine laying ship design. ROC navy picture.

Taiwan even commissioned a new minelayer in January 2022. According to Taiwan’s media, the Taiwanese navy has committed US$33 million to construct four quick minelaying ships between 2017 and 2021 to strengthen its maritime defenses surrounding the island.

A recent argument made by an American naval analyst suggested that the United States could also pursue the aggressive but inexpensive strategy of planting mines in the Pearl River Delta and the Yellow Sea to pressure China to negotiate in the event of a war between the two powers. 

US Sending Warships To Taiwan Strait

The US is preparing to send warships through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks in response to the military standoff that has developed in the region.

On August 12, Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific coordinator for President Joe Biden, also disclosed that “an ambitious road map for trade negotiations” with Taiwan would be made public “in the coming days.” 

“We will ensure that our presence, posture, and exercise account for China’s more provocative and destabilizing behavior towards guiding the situation in the western Pacific towards greater stability,” Campbell said. 

He added that the US would continue supporting Taiwan under the US policy and take calm, decisive actions to maintain stability in the face of ongoing efforts by Beijing to undermine it. 

Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group enters 5th Fleet.

Meanwhile, the White House stationed the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group in the region while it continued to “monitor the situation.” On August 9, the US and Japan engaged in a joint air force exercise close to Okinawa. 

In its most recent policy paper, Beijing stated that if it could not seize control of the island “by peaceful means,” it would use force against Taiwan.

Like most nations, Washington shifted its official diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 and did not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. But, it opposed any attempt to occupy the island by force.

The US-China relationship could become even more strained due to a bill that the US Congress is considering designating Taiwan as a “major non-NATO ally.” 

Also, the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 would provide 4.5 billion dollars in security assistance to Taiwan, enhancing its defense capabilities. Washington would be obligated by the legislation to promote Taipei’s inclusion in international organizations.

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