August 4, 2022
BEIJING – The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command continued to carry out combat exercises around Taiwan on Wednesday, mobilizing some of the PLA’s top hardware such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet and the DF-17 medium-range hypersonic ballistic missile.
The command announced late on Tuesday night that it had started a series of joint operations in the air and waters surrounding Taiwan starting that evening amid the provocative visit to Taiwan by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The command said in a news release on its WeChat account that fighter jets, early-warning planes and bomber aircraft took off from multiple air bases on Wednesday morning and conducted aerial command, early warning, electronic jamming and fire support drills over waters near Taiwan.
Meanwhile, naval vessels had arrived in waters to the east of Taiwan and completed blockading and area-denial deployment. They were scheduled to cooperate with aircraft to perform sea blockades, air defense and other training tasks, according to the news release.
As of Wednesday afternoon, forces of the command had been organized to approach Taiwan from several directions in high-intensity deterrence operations.
Video clips published by the command showed J-20 fighter jets taking off and a column of DF-17 missile launch vehicles traveling by road. In addition, the CNS Changchun, a Type 052C guided-missile destroyer and the CNS Nanjing, a Type 052D destroyer, appeared in videos.
Major General Gu Zhong, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said on Wednesday that the joint military actions are necessary measures to respond to the dangerous moves made by the US and the Taiwan authorities.
“They will enable us to test our forces’ joint combat capability and their weapons’ performance and will also help us to get ready for any possible crises and emergencies,” the officer said. “We want those malevolent visitors to Taiwan and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists to know that our forces have full confidence and the ability to hit back at any provocations and safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China Central Television quoted a fighter jet pilot of the command as saying on Wednesday that he and his colleagues flew their planes near Taiwan and they are always ready to engage the enemy.
Senior Colonel Shi Yi, the command’s spokesman, said in a statement that its naval and air forces will carry out joint exercises and training to the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan. Meanwhile, long-range strike drills will take place in the Taiwan Straits and ballistic missiles will be fired into waters to the east of Taiwan, the spokesman added.
By Wednesday afternoon, air, naval, missile, strategic support and logistic support forces had been involved in the exercises and carried out sea strike, land attack, air combat and joint blockade drills, the command said.
Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, said the PLA’s military operations around Taiwan are “groundbreaking, powerful, effective and targeted” as shown in their widest-ever range and closest-ever proximity to Taiwan.
“The six exercise zones, which are much closer to the island compared with previous PLA exercises near Taiwan, would establish a circle of blockade and deterrence,” he said, noting that joint besieging maneuvers will take place during the exercises.
“The zone to the northwest of Taiwan is located in the center of the narrowest part of the Taiwan Straits, while the zones to the east and southwest of Taiwan face Hualien, Taitung and Kaohsiung, which are home to the island’s major military bases. Those can be very effective deterrence,” Meng said.
“The other zones also can obviously blockade key locations — the two zones in the northeast are near the key Keelung port and the one in the south lies in the entrance to the Bashi Channel.”
In addition, multiple services are mobilized, including the strategic support force and rocket force, in the military drills, which are “close to actual combat”, he said.
An international politics researcher with the PLA, who asked to remain anonymous, stressed that the missile drills to be conducted off the island’s east coast would be a strong deterrent, as the missiles are “highly likely to cross the airspace over Taiwan for the first time”.
He also suggested that observers should pay attention to whether the PLA will deploy its carrier battle groups and large fleets of combat aircraft. “A carrier battle group can play a key role in blocking or cutting off supply lines,” the researcher said.
Yuan Zheng, a senior researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, anticipated that such military drills around Taiwan will become regular and will likely be very similar to actual combat.
“On the one hand, that would aim to deter ‘Taiwan independence’ forces; on the other hand, that is meant to prepare for any possible emergency across the Straits in the future,” he said.