China to ‘normalize’ just-ended military drills around Taiwan

Xinhua via AP
A People’s Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen at rear Aug. 5.

BEIJING/TAIPEI — China’s Eastern Theater Command announced Wednesday that it has completed a series of exercises around Taiwan, while also stressing its policy to continue conducting military drills in the area.

The command said in a statement that it will “continue to carry out military training for war preparedness” and “organize normalized combat-readiness security patrol in the Taiwan Strait.”

China’s military conducted exercises in waters and airspace around Taiwan from Aug. 4 to 9, in response to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

According to the Eastern Theater Command, the military implemented air defense exercises and saturation attack drills with multiple kinds of missiles on Sunday, with close cooperation between its bombers and missile units on the ground. On Monday, it carried out a joint naval and air exercise, with the main focus being anti-submarine drills. The possibility exists that China has in mind how to deal with U.S. submarines that might converge in waters around Taiwan in a contingency scenario.

On Aug. 2, China announced that it would conduct military drills from Aug. 4 as a “countermeasure” against Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Beijing implemented exercises each day, including launching ballistic missiles, setting up the exercise sites as if blockading Taiwan. A diplomatic source in Beijing said the drills were held on an “unprecedented scale” in China’s military history.

According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, the involvement of 66 military aircraft and 14 naval vessels from China was confirmed in the exercises on Sunday. Of these, 12 fighters crossed the northern median of the Taiwan Strait, a border of sorts with China. In areas around Taiwan’s Kinmen, drones believed to belong to China’s military were confirmed to have flown for five consecutive days.

Threat to Japan

The large-scale military exercises by China’s military around Taiwan have highlighted again the seriousness of Beijing’s military threats to Japan.

The Japanese government intends to expedite efforts to drastically strengthen its defense capabilities, deploying in fiscal 2024, about two years earlier than its initial plan, long-range missiles comprising improved versions of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles.

According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, China’s military on Aug. 4 launched a total of nine missiles, including its Dong Feng-15 (DF-15) short-range ballistic missiles. Five of these landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. These missiles were believed to be fired from mobile launchers known as TELs (transporter erector launchers).

Some observers believe that China conducted a “rehearsal” for an assault on Okinawa’s Yonagunijima, the westernmost island of Japan and a stronghold of the Self-Defense Forces for the monitoring of China’s activities.

China is believed to possess more than 600 short-range ballistic missiles like the DF-15s that can reach Taiwan and parts of the Nansei island chain between Kyushu and Taiwan. Therefore, there are limits to solely enhancing Japan’s missile defense system.

Taking these points into consideration, the Japanese government is likely to adopt the view that possessing counterattack capabilities to destroy missile launch sites and other targets is necessary for self-defense.

The improved Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles that will have their range extended to about 1,000 kilometers are expected to be a pillar of Japan’s counterattack capabilities. The Japanese government intends to deploy them gradually in the Nansei Islands and Kyushu in preparation for a contingency in the Taiwan Strait.