PLA, CCG drills continue around Taiwan island

BEIJING: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the China Coast Guard (CCG) continued to conduct drills around the island of Taiwan on Friday, forming what some experts call a new normal of “anti-salami-slicing” against provocations by the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces.

Senior Captain Li Xi, a spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement on Friday that the theater command continued to conduct the Joint Sword-2024A exercise around the island of Taiwan, with integrated operations inside and outside the island chain being conducted to test the command’s capabilities to jointly take control of the battlefield and launch joint strikes, and to seize control of crucial areas.

The two-day Joint Sword-2024A drills were launched on Thursday as a punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces following Taiwan regional leader Lai Ching-te’s separatist inaugural speech on May 20.

In Friday’s drills, the PLA Eastern Theater Command practiced courses including vessel-aircraft coordination, sea assault and land attack, and tested the forces’ combat capabilities including multi-domain coordination and joint strike, spokesperson Li said.

At a training ground in the eastern part of East China’s Fujian Province, separated from the island of Taiwan only by the narrow Taiwan Straits, modularized long-range multiple launch rocket systems entered firing positions and conducted mock fire strikes on Friday, according to a video released by the Eastern Theater Command.

“We, the rocket artillery forces, can strike far, accurately and fiercely. We can deliver full-domain, round-the-clock precision strikes on targets,” said Jiang Xiaodong, an officer at a brigade affiliated with the army of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, vowing to firmly eliminate all “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces upon receiving the instruction.

The rocket force of the PLA Eastern Theater Command erects a short-range ballistic missile during the Joint Sword-2024A exercises on May 24. Photo: PLA Eastern Theater Command

The rocket force of the PLA Eastern Theater Command erects a short-range ballistic missile during the Joint Sword-2024A exercises on May 24. 

At sea, the Type 054A guided missile frigate Nantong conducted alert patrol and combat exercises in the Taiwan Straits on Friday.

While sailing toward the island of Taiwan, the PLA warship was able to visually confirm the Cheng Ho, a frigate of the naval force of the island of Taiwan commissioned in 1994, following from about 0.6 nautical miles away.

With rapid maneuvers and stealth approaches, PLA warship flotillas conducted mock strikes against maritime targets in waters around the island of Taiwan.

“Under realistic, complex circumstances and supported by the theater command’s joint operational system, we organized drills including vessel-aircraft joint anti-submarine and control of key regions in waters to the southwest of the island of Taiwan,” said He Cheng, an officer under a frigate detachment.

The frigate established remote link with naval and air forces to the east of the Taiwan island, shared target information and coordinated closely over tactics when conducting joint strikes on key targets and seizing control of major lanes, He said.

The air force of the PLA Eastern Theater Command continued their combat patrols around the island of Taiwan and its outlying islands on Friday, with several bombers escorted by fighter jets flying beyond the island chain.

H-6K bombers and J-16 fighter jets carrying live missiles were seen in report footage taking off from airfields.

The warplanes then established attack positions to the east of the island of Taiwan, coordinated with naval flotillas and land-based missile units to conduct mock strikes on key targets.

In the rain, dozens of transporter erector launchers for DF-11 short-range ballistic missiles of the Rocket Force quickly moved out to preset positions and launched multiple waves of mock fire strikes on targets.

The Rocket Force’s troops will resolutely thwart “Taiwan independence” secessionist attempts of any form, said Li Dawei, an officer at a brigade affiliated with the Rocket Force.

Wu Qian, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement on Friday that the PLA Eastern Theater Command recently organized its army, naval, air force and rocket force to conduct joint drills around Taiwan island to test the troops’ combat capability in joint operations.

Completely rightful, legitimate, and necessary, the operation is aimed at suppressing the arrogance of “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and deterring the interference and intervention of external forces, Wu said.

The PLA will safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity with concrete actions, Wu said, noting that the PLA will push up countermeasures every time the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces provoke, until the complete national reunification is realized.

Zhang Chi, a professor at the National Defense University of the PLA, told Chinese media that the PLA’s exercises around the Taiwan Straits have become a new normal, which is a punishment for the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces’ repeated provocations on the Chinese mainland’s bottom line.

After former Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen’s provocative transit through the US in 2023, the PLA conducted the first Joint Sword exercise, and now the PLA launched another Joint Sword exercise after Lai’s May 20 speech, Zhang said, concluding that, “Every time ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces provoke, the PLA will move forward a step further. This is a new normal of ‘anti-salami-slicing’.”

In addition to the PLA’s drills, China Coast Guard (CCG) also continued its exercises on Friday following its Thursday patrols near the island of Taiwan’s outlying islands.

The CCG Flotilla 2304 on Friday conducted comprehensive law enforcement exercises in waters to the east of the island of Taiwan, focusing on training courses such as verification and identification as well as warning and repelling, and tested the vessels’ capabilities of conducting joint patrols and dealing with emergencies, said Gan Yu, a spokesperson of the CCG, in a press release on Friday.

A photo attached to the press release shows a CCG law enforcement personnel observing the coastline of the island of Taiwan, with the Central Mountain Range clearly visible, indicating that the CCG flotilla was very close to the island.

Observers noted that while the island of Taiwan had reported the CCG presence in waters to the east of the island in March, this is the first time the CCG has announced its activities in the region, marking the start of the CCG’s law enforcement activities toward the main island of Taiwan.

Since the start of the drills, the PLA Eastern Theater Command has published several animations depicting the movement of its forces toward the island of Taiwan as well as a computer-generated clip showing what a joint strike on the island would look like.

Comparing the exercise zones shown in the sketch maps with zones of previous drills, a Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity said that the Joint Sword-2024A covered wider regions, including outlying islands such as Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, but at the same time, the encirclement on the main island of Taiwan became tighter.

The animations indicated that the drills had key cities in three major target zones in mind, namely the northern part of the island where the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces’ political center lies, the southern part where the island’s naval forces gather, and the eastern part where the island could receive external support, the expert said.

The PLA has practiced a new model of blockading the island of Taiwan, analysts said, noting that since Taiwan is an isolated island that relies heavily on energy imports, if it is blockaded, it will very easily suffer an economic collapse.

Although the Joint Sword-2024A drills are scheduled to conclude on Friday, the PLA’s routine exercises will not end, and if “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces insist on making provocations, there will be following drills such as Joint Sword-2024B, C and D, observers said.

Mian Abrar
Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]

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