ESCALATION OR DE-ESCALATION STILL A GUESSING GAME – AS CHINA ANNOUNCES NEW LIVE-FIRE DRILLS IN YELLOW & BOHAI SEAS – WHILE TAIWAN TO STAGE ‘2 LARGE-SCALE’ LIVE-FIRE DRILLS OF ITS OWN – IN ANTICIPATION BEIJING WILL HALT ITS BLOCKADES

China announces new military drills

China announced Sunday that it will conduct live-fire military exercises on the Yellow and Bohai seas.

The drill on the Bohai Sea will be held Aug. 8 to Sept. 8, while another on the Yellow Sea will be conducted Aug. 7 to 15, the Maritime Safety Administration said in a statement.

Marine Natural Geography and Sea Boundary Division - ScienceDirect

Beijing launched massive military exercises surrounding Taiwan earlier this week after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island, bucking Chinese warnings.

China views Taiwan as a “breakaway province” despite Taipei having governed itself since 1949. It has vowed to reunify the island, including by force if necessary.

As part of its major military exercises near Taiwan and eight countermeasures to respond to the situation, China on Friday dispatched the largest number of military aircraft across the Taiwan Strait this year, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. -https://www.aa.com.tr/

Taiwan to test artillery combat readiness after PLA encircles island with live-fire drills

  • Two exercises to be held in the island’s south involving light mortars and howitzers
  • PLA also plans manoeuvres for the Bohai and Yellow seas, maritime safety authorities say

Taiwan will stage two large-scale, live-fire artillery drills this week in southern Taiwan to test its combat readiness in the face of growing military threats from Beijing.

The Fourth Theatre of Operation will hold the drills on Tuesday and Thursday at Fenggang in the southern county of Pingtung, according to Taiwan’s armed forces.

Military units involved include the artillery command, infantry troops stationed in Pingtung, the Hualien defence command and the island’s coastguard, the army said, adding 78 locally developed light mortars and six US-made howitzers would be used to fire shells into the air and sea.

The People’s Liberation Army has mounted unprecedented war games near Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

More manoeuvres

Beijing announced month-long live-fire drills in the Bohai Sea and south of the Yellow Sea on Saturday, as it counted down to the final day of massive live-fire exercises around Taiwan.

Strike tests

At noon on Sunday, the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command said that as planned, it continued to conduct combat-oriented joint exercises in the air and sea domains around the island of Taiwan.

It said the focus was on testing joint firepower capabilities for ground strikes and long-range air strikes.

Back on track

Normal operations are expected to resume for flights in and out of Taiwan on Monday, according to Taoyuan International Airport.

He said some 300 international flights had to divert each day to avoid the drill areas.
Since Thursday, more than 900 international flights have been affected and more than 200 cancelled.

“The airport authorities have coordinated with Japan and the Philippines for international flights to go by way of their flight zones instead of the Taipei flight information zone,” the official said.

‘Simulated attack’

Multiple PLA warships and warplanes have been detected in waters surrounding Taiwan on Sunday, simulating attacks on the island proper, the Taiwanese defence ministry said.

“In addition … the PLA forces were also simulating attacks of our [naval] vessels at sea, while sending drones to harass our outlaying islands,” it said.

The ministry did not specify the number of the PLA warships and planes in the drills.

Drone response

The PLA has sent more drones to Taiwan’s offshore islet of Quemoy, also known as Kinmen.

Taiwan’s armed forces reported three drones flying over the restricted waters of Quemoy and nearby Beiding Island on Saturday night, with troops there firing flares to warn them away.

Taiwan’s armed forces maintained combat readiness and were on high alert, the island’s defence ministry said.

The PLA has conducted flyovers of the Quemoy archipelago – just 3.2km (2 miles) off the mainland city of Xiamen – four nights in a row since Wednesday, when Pelosi visited Taipei.

Holding the line

About 10 PLA and Taiwanese navy boats continued to stay close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Sunday morning, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The source added that mainland boats repeatedly “pressed” into the unofficial buffer, while Taiwan’s navy stayed close by to monitor the movements.

Both sides have shown restraint so far, the source familiar with the security planning in the region said, since similar navy manoeuvring on Monday near the median line.

Tracking movements

Taiwan’s navy has been pointing shore-based Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles at PLA warships surrounding Taiwan, according to Military News Agency, an outlet affiliated with the island’s defence ministry.

The navy’s Hai Feng Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile Squadron had been monitoring closely all PLA warships in the Taiwan Strait around the clock since Thursday, it said.

Taiwanese military personnel check a shore-based Hsiung-feng II system. Photo: Taiwan Military News Agency
Taiwanese military personnel check a shore-based Hsiung-feng II system. Photo: Taiwan Military News Agency

The island’s ministry also released a photo and video of the Taiwanese destroyer Magong shadowing and monitoring a PLA Maanshan-class frigate in waters off eastern Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defence ministry released video footage showing the Taiwanese destroyer Magong monitoring a PLA Maanshan-class frigate in waters off eastern Taiwan. Photo: Taiwanese defence ministry
Taiwan’s defence ministry released video footage showing the Taiwanese destroyer Magong monitoring a PLA Maanshan-class frigate in waters off eastern Taiwan. Photo: Taiwanese defence ministry

The images were apparently in response to a photo released by mainland news agency Xinhua showing a marine on board a PLA vessel monitoring a Taiwanese warship.

The photo raised questions in Taiwan over its authenticity as the background was thought to be the site of the Ho-Ping Power Plant in the eastern county of Hualien. If so, the PLA vessel would have been within reach of the island’s 12 nautical mile waters – an action Taiwan military had said would lead to its attack.

Taiwanese authorities have yet to offer an assessment of the photo.

Close look

In a key moment on Saturday, mainland media published a photo showing a PLA soldier within sight of the ROCS Lan Yang, one of Taiwan’s Chi Yang-class frigates.

A PLA soldier observes the ROCS Lan Yang. Photo: Xinhua
A PLA soldier observes the ROCS Lan Yang. Photo: Xinhua

The outlets did not specify where the photo was taken but the hills behind the Lan Yang corresponded to those near Ho-Ping Power Station in Hualien county on the east coast of Taiwan. It appears to be the closest a PLA warship has sailed to the island’s coast since 1949.

Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, said sailing close to the Taiwanese coast showed the PLA wanted to exert pressure and highlight a stark difference in military capability across the strait.

Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in New Taipei City, said the photo of the Lan Yang showed a very close encounter but he could not determine the location of the PLA ship or its distance from Taiwan’s coastline without further intelligence.

Monitoring land and sea

The Taiwanese defence ministry said the mainland sent 20 groups of warplanes and 14 sets of warships to waters around Taiwan on Saturday.

It also said it observed several units of PLA planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, saying they appeared to be simulating an attack on the self-ruled island.

The ministry said its forces detected “multiple batches of communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line”.

It said mainland warplanes – including Su-30 and J-11 jets – crossed the median line 14 times on Saturday.

Not strong enough?

Some in Taiwan have questioned its defence ministry’s decision not to issue warnings for mainland ballistic missiles and not to pursue more forceful measures against PLA ships and planes.

But Huang, who is also international affairs chief for the opposition Kuomintang party, said Taiwan was not showing weakness.

“This is to show the other side that we do not want to get into an unnecessary military conflict while defending our own sovereignty,” he said. “And we also want to inform the world that it is not us who are [making] these incursions and intimidations.”

Huang said the Taiwanese military was “prudent to not have been intimidated into responding with actions that could lead to unintended conflict”.

“Politically, I do not believe that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are ready to get into an unscheduled or unplanned large-scale military conflict,” he said. “So escalation control is very important.”

Yue, the retired PLA colonel, also said Taiwanese forces were trying to avoid a miscalculation that could lead to a larger conflict. “The United States has also not stated clearly that it would help Taiwan militarily. So Taiwan believes it’s hard to depend on the US.”

What next?

Yue said he did not expect conditions to escalate, and the situation on Taiwan would return to a pre-drill state. Taipei and Beijing understood the risks of an escalation and would try to cool down the situation, he said.

“Mainland activities will largely stay west of the median line, but will occasionally cross it to show that the line does not exist,” Yue said.

Huang said the aftermath was difficult to predict and Beijing could extend the drills.

“Or China might say, ‘thank you very much, we have sent our signals, we have tested our systems, we have done all our training items and programmes and this is it’.”

He added that Beijing could continue to squeeze Taiwan’s economy and restrict trade and travel to hurt the island without making Taiwan a source of international media attention. SCMP

SCMP / https://www.aa.com.tr/

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