China carried out assault drills near Taiwan on Aug. 17, with fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft, and combat ships exercising off the southwest and southeast of the island in what the country’s armed forces said was a response to “external interference.”
In a brief statement that was released on Tuesday, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said the drills were “using actual troops,” and “recent U.S.–Taiwan provocations … severely violated the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Taiwan, which is a de facto independent country but one that the Chinese regime claims as its own, has complained of repeated Chinese military drills in its vicinity in the past two years or so, as part of a pressure campaign to force the island to accept China’s sovereignty.
The assault drills are different from those carried out as a matter of routine by the PLA. Tuesday’s drills were held near Taiwan’s southwestern and southeastern waters, in both the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea, and the Bashi Channel that connects the two seas, according to the PLA’s statement.
“It’s special and rare that the PLA performs a military exercise in both seas. In the military sense, the PLA wants to show that it can cut the U.S. Navy’s transportation line via the Bashi Channel to the South China Sea [from the Philippine Sea],” Su Tzu-yun, director of the Defense Strategy and Resources Division of the Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taiwan, told The Epoch Times on Aug. 17. “[The drills are] indeed a threat to Taiwan.”
A Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, in this file photo. (Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP)
The PLA suddenly announced the drills but didn’t give details. The Taiwan side closely monitored the drills and released related information.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on its official website that 11 PLA aircraft entered Taiwanese air defense zone on Tuesday, including six J-16 fighters, two H-6K bombers, one Y-8Q anti-submarine aircraft, one Y-8G long-distance jammer, and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The ministry said in a statement that it had fully grasped and assessed the situation in the sea and air, “and is prepared for various responses.”
An F-35 jet arrives at its new operational base at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah on Sept. 2, 2015. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)
The United States Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act on April 10, 1979 to support Taiwan in deference to Beijing.
The “provocations” that the PLA claimed in its statement on Aug. 17 might include a meeting that was held last week, in which officers from the U.S. and Taiwanese coast guards discussed improving cooperation and communication.
On Aug. 4, the U.S. State Department approved a sale of $750 million worth of military equipment to Taiwan, which includes 40 self-propelled howitzers, 20 field artillery ammunition support vehicles, and other equipment. This also angered Beijing.