On Monday, ten People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft—including fighter jets and reconnaissance planes—flew sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, according to Newsweek. A senior Taiwanese defense official was quoted as saying that the military exercise had an “offensive posture.”
The exercise’s flight patterns were notable as well, as they appeared to show Taiwan surrounded on three sides. According to analysts, the deployment of more sorties eastward revealed that the PLA has the capability to strike targets in eastern Taiwan.
The Chinese military was “continuing to increase its combat preparedness by making its routine exercises more complex and realistic and taking possible U.S. and Japanese interventions into consideration,” the Communist Party newspaper Global Times reported.
Su Tzu-yun, a senior security analyst with Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told the magazine that the military exercise also coincided with the Taipei visit of a U.S. diplomat. After the signing of a U.S.-Taiwan coast guard pact, China “expressed its fury” by sending twenty warplanes toward Taiwan, he noted.
Su added that the manner in which the exercises were conducted was “the PLA’s way of showing it has the capability to isolate Taiwan if the U.S. and Japan plan to assist.”
In another sign of escalation in the contested region, President Joe Biden’s administration recently brushed off a new warning from China that demanded that it change its policy toward Taiwan.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been quoted as saying that Washington needs to make genuine efforts to roll back what he termed the Donald Trump administration’s “dangerous practice” of overtly displaying support for Taiwan.
He added that Beijing absolutely has “no room for compromise” on the matter.
During a recent session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, was asked about the United States’ ability to deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
“Our conventional deterrent is eroding in the region and it’s because of the vast advances that the Chinese have undertaken,” the four-star admiral said.
Davidson noted that China “continues to militarize the region, deploying new equipment to its artificial outposts in 2020 and using forward airfields to support a growing level of military operations by heavy transport, intelligence, and anti-submarine aircraft.”
Beijing also conducts large-scale military exercises in the South China Sea, “with an emphasis on amphibious landing, joint fires, and maritime strike scenarios.” They “are augmented by an armada of China Coast Guard ships, fishing boats, and other para-military forces that serve as force multipliers,” he added.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.