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China exercises reveal plans for Taiwan blockade: experts

#China #exercises #reveal #plans #Taiwan #blockade #experts

Beijing’s biggest-ever drills around Taiwan have provided important clues to its plans for a grueling blockade in the event of a war to take the self-governing island and revealed an increasingly emboldened Chinese military, experts told AFP.

The visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan – the second in line for the presidency – sparked outrage in Beijing, which launched huge military maneuvers around the island, even at the risk of partializing its plans to the United States and Asia to reveal allies.

The exercises, which mobilize warplanes, helicopters and even warships, are aimed at simulating a blockade by Taiwan and include practicing an “attack on targets at sea,” according to the state news agency Xinhua.

It is the first time Chinese drills have been held so close to Taiwan, with some of the drills taking place less than 20 kilometers from the island’s coast.

Also unprecedented are Beijing’s drills on Taiwan’s eastern flank, a strategically important area for resupplying the island’s armed forces — as well as for possible American reinforcements.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day take it, by force if necessary.

It has long been speculated that a “blockade scenario” is one of China’s preferred strategies if it attempts to seize the island, and this week’s exercises have shown how that could play out.

Such a siege would aim to prevent the entry or exit of commercial or military ships and aircraft.

But it would also deny American forces stationed in the area access to the island.

The Chinese military “obviously has every capability to impose such a blockade,” Song Zhongping, an independent Chinese military commentator, told AFP.

“We are already seeing in the current exercises that Taiwanese fighter jets and ships are absolutely unable to take off or leave their ports.”

– “You cannot be fired” –

The Chinese military fired a dozen ballistic missiles on Thursday, hitting various areas around Taiwan – some of them flying over the island, Beijing’s state broadcaster CCTV said on Friday.

According to Xinhua, Beijing has mobilized more than 100 aircraft and more than 10 frigates and destroyers — including the J-20 stealth fighter and a Type 055 destroyer, the crown jewels of China’s air and sea forces.

But beyond the big guns, these exercises make it possible to test and sharpen the level of coordination between the various mobilized army corps: land, sea, air and missile forces, as well as strategic support tasked with cyber warfare.

It’s also a crucial test for the Chinese Army’s recently inaugurated Eastern Theater of Operations, created in 2016 and overseeing the country’s entire eastern seas — and by extension Taiwan.

What China has done so far shows its “robust capabilities,” John Blaxland, a professor of international security at the Australian National University, told AFP.

“They can’t be dismissed as some kind of less inexperienced, incompetent force,” he said.

“They clearly have the ability to coordinate land and sea, they have the ability to deploy missile systems, and they function effectively.”

These drills also show the Taiwanese, Americans and Japanese that the Chinese “have what it takes to do what they threaten to do,” he added.

“The opposite of that, of course, is that what they’re doing is being scrutinized and monitored to learn lessons for Taiwan, the United States, Japan and others,” Blaxland noted.

– “Dangerous Enemy” –

During the previous 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, Bill Clinton’s US Navy allowed several warships to pass through the waterway and deployed aircraft carriers near the island.

This time, however, “the US government is taking prudent steps to avoid an undesirable escalation,” said Lonnie Henley, a former US intelligence officer and professor at the Elliott School of International Studies in Washington.

American caution is also rooted in the fact that China has greatly increased its military capabilities since 1996, when it could not deny US naval access to the area.

“In some areas, the PLA could even surpass US capabilities,” noted Grant Newsham, a former US naval officer and researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, referring to China’s military by its official name.

“If the battle is confined to the area immediately around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent – and if for some reason the Americans and Japanese don’t intervene, it will be difficult for Taiwan.”

Chinese incursions across the so-called mainland-Taiwan midline — which Beijing has never acknowledged — also speak to growing confidence, experts said.

“China hasn’t felt comfortable pushing its claims to the middle line until recently,” Blaxland said.

“We can assume that they will continue to operate as if the center line is not valid. It’s been like this for a while, but it’s now accelerating.”

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