China’s latest military exercise near Taiwan on Monday “could be a rehearsal of a reunification-by-force operation,” China’s state-run Global Times suggested Tuesday.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted an exercise near the island of Taiwan on Monday with the largest number of warplanes ever recorded, which could be a rehearsal of a reunification-by-force operation,” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece wrote on April 13.
China’s PLA deployed 25 aircraft to fly over Taiwan, breaching its air defense identification zone (ADIZ), on April 12, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement.
The PLA’s exercise included “14 J-16 and four J-10 multirole fighters, four H-6K strategic bombers, two KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-capable aircraft, as well as one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform,” the military website Janes reported Monday, citing the MND’s statement.
The air sortie was the PLA’s largest near Taiwan since the sovereign nation began publicly reporting PLA aircraft movements over the island in September 2020.
“The number of PLA warplanes featured in the [April 12] exercise was a record since Taiwan’s defense authorities began to release information about PLA aircraft activities in the region on September 17, 2020, surpassing the previous record of 20 on March 26. The number of J-16s, a powerful fighter jet, was also the biggest of all exercises,” the Global Times boasted on Tuesday.
“The exercise could be a rehearsal of its [the PLA’s] combat plan over the Taiwan island, and it could feature air superiority seizure, and attack on land and maritime targets, including warships of interfering foreign countries,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the newspaper.
The PLA’s record-breaking exercise near Taiwan on April 12 was a direct response to the U.S. issuing new guidelines meant to “deepen” its unofficial support of Taiwan nation two days earlier on April 10.
“The exercise conducted by the PLA served as a warning to Taiwan secessionists and the US after the two had made a series of provocative moves,” the Global Times wrote on Monday.
“On Saturday [April 10], the US Department of State announced new guidelines to encourage US government engagement with the island that reflects their ‘deepening unofficial relationship.’ Officials on the island recently also claimed that the island is drawing a line 30 nautical miles away from the island, attempting to deny PLA aircraft approaches,” the newspaper noted.
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has vowed to reunify the island, located off China’s southeast coast, with mainland China by force if necessary.