China closes in on Taiwan with military exercises by air and sea

Hong Kong (CNN) — China’s armed forces conducted simultaneous military exercises west and east of Taiwan on Monday in a move that analysts said was a warning to the autonomous island and its ally, the United States.

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escorts were conducting maneuvers around Taiwan, the Chinese military said in a statement on Monday.

“It was a routine training exercise organized in accordance with the annual work plan to test the effectiveness of the training of the troops and reinforce their ability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” the statement read. .

Meanwhile, at least 10 People’s Liberation Army fighter jets, including four J-16 and four J-10 fighter jets, one Y-8 anti-submarine warplane and one KJ-500 early warning plane, entered the Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ), according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense.

China Taiwan

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sails through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa in this photo released by the Japanese Ministry of Defense on April 4, 2021.

The US Federal Aviation Administration defines an ADIZ as “a designated area of ​​airspace over land or water within which a country requires immediate and positive identification, location, and air traffic control of aircraft in the interest of the national security of the country.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had “a complete understanding” of the situation and was “handling the matter properly”, Reuters reported.

Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of nearly 24 million people located off the southeast coast of mainland China, even though the two territories have been ruled separately for more than seven decades.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised that Beijing will never allow the island to become formally independent and has refused to rule out the use of force, if necessary, to take the island back.

Tensions over Taiwan have escalated in recent months, while Taipei has garnered US support in the form of new military equipment, an agreement between the US and Taiwanese coastguards, and strong statements of support from the administration of the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

“We are committed to deepening ties with Taiwan,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.

Last month, after speaking with Japanese leaders and diplomats, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Washington and Tokyo were prepared to reject Chinese threats to stability and order in Asia.

“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undermine democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and enforce maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law” Blinken said.

“We will respond if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

A ‘warning’ from Beijing

China’s maneuvers on Monday demonstrated its military superiority over Taiwan, Shi Hong, chief executive editor of the Chinese magazine Shipborne Weapons, said in a Global Times report.

“The exercise showed that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) is capable of surrounding the island of Taiwan, isolating its troops and leaving them with no room to run and no chance of winning if circumstances arise,” Shi said.

Chinese J-10 fighter jets perform at the Airshow China festival in Zhuhai in November 2016.

The exercises also sent a message to both the United States and Japan, Shi added. Since any US and Japanese military intervention would likely come from the east, China, by conducting exercises with its carrier group there, demonstrated that it could disrupt that aid, Shi said.

Western analysts said China did not demonstrate any new capabilities in Monday’s exercises.

Indeed, a Chinese aircraft carrier in the open Pacific could serve the strengths of the US Navy: its nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), said Thomas Shugart, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former captain. of the US Navy

“A Chinese aircraft carrier operating east of Taiwan is not particularly valuable if used like this, as it could be quite vulnerable operating so far away, in SSN-infested deep waters and beyond China’s SAM integrated air defense umbrella,” he said. Shugart.

But the Chinese military made a political statement, analysts said.

“It is intended to be a warning to Taiwanese and others that Beijing believes undermine its interests, including Americans,” said Collin Koh, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Koh notes that a group of PLA Navy aircraft carriers have operated east of Taiwan at least twice before.

And the presence of large numbers of PLA aircraft at Taiwan’s ADIZ is becoming more common.

In late March, 20 PLA ​​fighter jets entered Taiwan’s ADIZ in one day, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense. It is the highest number since last year, when Taiwan began to reveal almost daily flights of Chinese jets to its airspace.

This Chinese activity is expected to continue. The PLA said in its statement that aircraft operations like Monday’s would occur on a regular basis.

US aircraft carrier operates in the South China Sea

A US Navy F / A-18E Super Hornet lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on April 5, 2021, during operations in the South China Sea.

While the Chinese carrier was conducting exercises off Taiwan, a US Navy carrier strike group was conducting its own operations in the South China Sea.

The US Seventh Fleet said the USS Theodore Roosevelt and her escorts entered the South China Sea on Sunday for routine operations, the Roosevelt’s second such visit to the area this year.

“It is great to be back in the South China Sea to assure our allies and partners that we remain committed to the freedom of the seas,” Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, said in a statement.

“While in the South China Sea, the strike group will carry out fixed and rotary wing flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations, coordinated tactical training and more,” the Seventh Fleet statement said.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory and in recent years has built military fortifications on several islands.

It says the presence of foreign military forces such as the US Carrier Strike Group is fueling tensions in the region.

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