April 10 (UPI) — China may have set Taiwan as a target in simulated exercises involving rocket-propelled grenades in a live-fire drill, amid efforts within the mainland to tighten the state’s grip on the mobility of ethnic Uighurs in the northwest.
The People’s Liberation Army air force conducted exercises on a western Chinese plateau, hitting all targets with four rocket-propelled grenades that prepared the force for “cross-regional missions,” state tabloid Global Times reported.
Chinese commentator Song Zhongping said the drills were preparing for a situation on the island of Taiwan or at the air force base in Taiwan’s Hualian county.
Beijing does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty in its One-China Policy, and recently denounced any U.S. plan to sell weapons to Taiwan.
The Eastern Theater Command Air Force Air Brigade, which oversees Taiwan, conducted the exercises while simulating different climatic conditions.
In the course of the exercises, pilots encountered an unexpected sandstorm, but the “100 percent hit rate” on high plateaus is an indication the PLA air force can accomplish attack missions, Song said.
The virtual targets used in the exercise were also reportedly one-tenth the size of usual targets, and they were designed to purposely increase training difficulty, according to state media.
Declining relations with Taiwan may not be the only issue China has responded with military gestures.
China has deployed heavily armed troops to the country’s Xinjiang province, home to the Uighur minority.
Beijing has been suppressing protests in the area, and local authorities might be monitoring ethnic Uighurs at a soon-to-open subway in Urumqi, Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday.
Riders who are not Han Chinese must show identification before purchasing tickets, creating fears of long lines and delays during rush hour, according to the report.
The subway system, the first of its kind in Urumqi, is to launch in June.