China’s unprecedented military drills and the first-of-their-kind missile and rocket firings that have gone over Taiwan seem to deter and scare separatists led by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
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Statement and interviews by Chinese scholars indicate China might militarily intervene if Taiwan declares independence, with the daring drills serving as the beginning phase of an actual invasion.
Videos released by Chinese news outlets, official press statements by its Ministry of Defence (MoD), and social media users have so far claimed the use of Dong Feng-15 (DF-15), DF-16, and the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV).
The DF-15 and DF-16 are short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) that China is expected to use to strike land targets. Videos also showed a particular system firing a volley of rockets which experts believe is the PCL-191 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS), which could have tremendous utility in a possible war with Taiwan and India.
But, shockingly, the missiles flew over Taiwan despite the ongoing military drills in the six regions around the island, with one in the north and two in the south within Taiwan’s territorial waters.
Disregarding the maritime boundary is an even more powerful way to uphold its claim over the island, conveying that it is not a violation of international law for a country’s military to operate within its territory.
What Is China’s Plan?
Meng Xiangqing, a National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army professor, explained the drills’ plan and significance to China Global Television Network (CGTN).
He indicated that motivations for an actual invasion are still different, with the exercises possibly meant to probe weak defenses which could be exploited.
This would possibly constitute the DPP declaring independence. The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Military Command announced the military drills 38 hours before their commencement.
This has been reflected in the absence of complaints from countries like South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei. They share maritime disputes with China in the contiguous maritime zone. So far, there have not been reports of civilian merchant shipping being affected.
Meng then points to the “targeted arrangements” of different deployments. “First, look at the southeastern part of Pingtan. It’s the narrowest part of the Taiwan Strait.
Now, look at the two northern areas just off the coast of Keelung Port. This area could be blocked off. The port’s eastern area faces two key military bases in Hualien and Taitung. There can be a full-frontal attack on these bases.”
“Two key areas in the south are also within range. Altogether, the six areas form something of a noose. When the knot tightens, it’s like containing separatist forces on the island.
So, this drill should work very well.” Zhang Junshe, a Senior Research Fellow at the Naval Research Academy, called them the “largest amongst all exercises directed at Taiwan. Six locations show that we can blockade the island if necessary.”
Invasion Would Be An Extension Of The Drills
A statement from the PLA’s Eastern Military Command said: “The operations will unfold systematically and extensively. With multiple military forces, they would include targeted and live fire precision weapons drills like joint blockades, air to ship attacks, air to land strikes, and air control operations.”
The “blockade” bit in the statement means that China’s aim, regardless of an actual invasion, is to completely cut off the island and prevent any ingress or exodus of adversarial forces.
It means intervention by US and Japan can be effectively stalled given the massive combined arms assets participating in the “combat-oriented” exercises that involve all air, space, sea, and land warfare platforms concentrated on a single point.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLAN), People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), Strategic Support Force, and Joint Logistics Support Force are participating in the “all-weather” drills, meaning that any invasion will merely be an extension of the actual military exercises.
Suppose the diplomatic situation with the DPP and the US breaks down without compromise, and China calculates that it needs to go in.
In that case, its fighter jets, early warning jets, warships, coast guard, civilian fishermen militia, submarines, space assets, and cyber warriors will have already rehearsed “multi-directional” “high intensity” “close-in deterrence joint sea and air assaults.”
These have already been preceded by “joint containment and control, sea assault, land strike, and air superiority operations” on the first day of the military drills. And this is just the Eastern Military Command.
The level to which China has prepared for even a whole regional conflagration reflects in this Global Times report, which claimed that at least one nuclear submarine from another military command had been sent to the exercises. “This reflects the high interoperability between PLA’s various theatre commands,” Zhang was quoted.