A large number of Chinese military aircraft and ships crossed the halfway mark of the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, in a simulated land strike on the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own.
The maneuvers came on the third day of a promised four-day series of military drills by China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, following U.S. House Speaker
visit to Taipei earlier this week .
Defense analysts said Saturday’s exercises build on China’s rehearsals in recent days to stage a potential attack on Taiwan, demonstrating and honing Beijing’s ability to impose an effective air and sea blockade that would precede an amphibious landing.
The Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, described the maneuvers as “simulated land strikes,” while Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said its military issued warnings from its defense radar system and deployed air reconnaissance patrols, naval ships and land-based missiles in response to what it also described as a simulated attack on the island. It said it detected 14 ships and 20 planes, 14 of which crossed the halfway mark of the Taiwan Strait.
The drills will help the PLA to gain more practical experience in the event of a real attack on Taiwan, said Su Tzu-yun, a Taipei-based security expert with the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, which is backed by Taiwan’s military. But Mr. Su also said that the enlarged scope of exercises would strengthen the West’s vigilance toward China.
In recent days, the PLA has increased the frequency with which its vessels and aircraft cross the so-called median line, a notional boundary that sits halfway between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan’s main island. Beijing doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the line.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Saturday, where he met with regional counterparts, defended China’s actions around Taiwan as a legitimate response to the U.S.’s actions and said Beijing would “resolutely smash the Taiwan authorities’ fantasy of ‘relying on the United States to seek independence.’”
“The noose around their necks will only get tighter and tighter,” Mr. Wang said, referring to what he called pro-independence forces in Taiwan.
The maneuvers on Saturday follow a PLA simulation of a military blockade of the island on Friday that Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said involved 68 Chinese warplanes and 13 warships. The actions prompted more than 200 commercial vessels to leave Taiwan’s surrounding waters, including the Taiwan Strait, a major shipping route in the region.
Maj. Gen. Meng Xiangqing, a professor at National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, told China’s state broadcaster on Friday that the PLA sent missiles directly over Taiwan’s main island for the first time, though Taiwan’s government said the missiles’ paths were so high that they didn’t pose risks to the island.
Even so, some in Taiwan took to social media to criticize the military for not disclosing the details before such information was released by Japan. The Taiwanese military said it wanted to “protect its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities.”
In the run-up to Mrs. Pelosi’s visit, high-profile Chinese commentators including Hu Xijin, former editor in chief of the state-run tabloid Global Times, had stoked nationalistic fervor and expectation for a swift and forceful response from Beijing.
Beijing had warned that Mrs. Pelosi’s trip, if carried out, would trigger unspecified countermeasures. Mrs. Pelosi had also been warned in briefings with senior White House and Pentagon officials about the lasting damage her trip could cause to U.S.-China relations, though she was never asked to skip the trip, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions.
Many on Chinese social media expressed disappointment in what they considered meek countermeasures after Mrs. Pelosi’s departure, turning their ire toward Mr. Hu for misleading the public with false predictions.
In an apparent nod to public sentiment, Chinese state media has played up the displays of military might during the exercises that followed Mrs. Pelosi’s departure. On Saturday morning, the People’s Daily touted the PLA’s precision strike and blockade capabilities on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, adding the hashtag: “What China Says, China Will Do.”
“Interfering external forces and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces will now have a deeper appreciation of what is meant by countermeasures,” the People’s Daily wrote in its post, garnering more than 200,000 likes. Similar posts during the military drills have dominated Weibo.
Separately on Saturday, Ouyang Li-hsin vice president of Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, a military-backed research body that develops and manufactures defense technology, was found dead in his hotel room in southern Taiwan, the institute said. The hospital determined after a forensic examination that the 57-year-old Mr. Ouyang had died of a heart attack.
Police said there was no evidence of foul play and said it had no plans to investigate further. As part of his duties, Mr. Ouyang oversaw the production of missiles, a key element of Taiwan’s defenses against any military assault by Beijing.
On Saturday, Politico reported that PLA officials haven’t returned calls from their Pentagon counterparts, citing unnamed sources. Hawaii-based spokespeople for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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