China Unleashes “Island Encirclement” War Drills Over Taiwan

It is an uncomfortable time for Taiwan. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began a dangerous “island encirclement” war drill around the country, which on Friday saw bombers and fighter jets simulating strikes on Taiwanese targets for the first time. It seems as Beijing will not wait for reunification; it wishes to intimidate the island into submission beforehand.

China’s air force carried out an operation in its eastern and southern theaters, dispatching bombers and reconnaissance planes around Taiwan on Friday. It was the first time for Su-35 fighter jets to fly over the Bashi Channel in formation with H-6K bombers, a spokesperson said. (Source: People’s Daily, China) 

Defense experts told the South China Morning Post that China’s military would increase pressure on Taiwan, with more war drills designed to send a warning message to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

“To reinforce the warning to Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, the mainland military would conduct targeted joint operational drills involving ground forces, the navy and the air force to strengthen its presence in the Taiwan Strait,” Song Zhongping, a former member of the PLA’s second artillery corps, the rocket wing’s predecessor.

There is a significant risk that China’s President Xi Jinping could be slowly walking his armed forces into a shooting war with Tawian. In an era of modernizing his military, President Jinping has given PLA generals fancy new weapons and hardware for war preparation purposes.

Military strategiest said Beijing showcased their “precision strike” capabilities and the understanding that the PLA air force has “upgraded deterrence” to the island’s independence-leaning president.

Since the end of the Chinese Civil war in 1949, mainland and Taiwan have had a significant degree of separation. “Taiwan is not like the two Koreas issue, with both sides being seen as equals and allowed to coexist. The message [the air force] wants to send to Taipei is that Taiwan is part of China and should be reunified with Beijing one day,” Beijing-based military expert Zhou Cheming explained.

“The increasing encirclement flights around Taiwan have warned the island’s independence-leaning forces that if they are going to make trouble, the mainland will take more radical moves to take them out,” he added.

Propaganda footage released by the PLA air force over the weekend revealed bombers, and fighter jets crossed the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the northern islands of the Philippines for an “innovative joint operation” on Friday, said the South China Morning Post.

The PLA air force conducted patrol circling China’s island of Taiwan on Friday, during which Su-35 fighter jets flew over the Bashi Channel in formation with the H-6Ks for the first time. (Source: China News)

Song said, “the PLA air force’s footage showed the H-6K bombers carrying CJ-20 or long sword cruise missiles – a long-range weapon that can hit precision targets on land and sea from a distance of over 2,000km (1,200 miles).”

Chinese PLA air force  H-6K bomber conducts island patrol during war drill. (Source: China News)

“The CJ-20 is one of the options the PLA might use in the event of war … because it has several purposes, including destroying Taiwan’s key military facilities or decapitate important human targets like Tsai and [Prime Minister William] Lai,” Song warned.

“This cruise missile could also threaten the US’s naval base in Guam [if Washington wants to intervene] when the mainland decides to attack Taiwan,” he added.

WATCH: PLA air force conducts war drill around Taiwan on Friday.

The South China Morning Post indicates that the PLA air force did not enter Taiwan’s airspace during the war drill, because “a provocative move risks immediate conflict” with Taiwan armed forces.

“Beijing has reinforced its ‘carrots and sticks’ approach to dealing with Taiwan’s ordinary people and independent forces, with the air force’s intensive island encirclement drills reflecting its coercion policy against the ruling party,” Song explained.

If it came to a cross-strait showdown, China would decimate Taiwan, and probably seize the island. However, such a move would drag the United States into a shooting war with China...

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