China ramps up military drills near Taiwan after “foreign provocations”

China has once again flexed its increasing power projection capabilities with yet another unprecedented show of force in recent days, with its air and naval forces manoeuvring near Taiwan on separate occasions amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on 12 April that a total of 25 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft entered the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on the same day. The figure represents the largest number declared since the ministry began its public announcements of PLA aircraft activity near Taiwan in mid-September 2020.

The ministry said in a statement that intruding assets included a KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft, two KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, four H-6K strategic bombers, as well as four J-10 and 14 J-16 and multirole combat aircraft.

The intrusion appears to be mounted in response to the new guidelines released by the US State Department on 9 April, which aim to facilitate engagement between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts in a manner “that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship”.

The latest incident follows a report by the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) that noted the presence of the PLA Navy’s (PLAN’s) lead Type 055 destroyer, Nanchang, with the escort group for the aircraft carrier Liaoning that deployed into the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan on 3 April.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force identified other vessels of the carrier group as it passed through the Miyako Strait south of Okinawa as the Type 052D destroyers Chengdu and Taiyuan, the Type 054A frigate Huanggang, and the Type 901 fast replenishment ship Hulunhu.

PLAN spokesperson Senior Captain Gao Xiucheng said on 5 April that the carrier group was conducting a “routine training exercise” in waters around Taiwan. However, the nationalistic Global Times reported that the exercise showcased the ability of China “to cut off foreign intervention” following “US warship provocations” – likely referring to the US Navy’s Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group which passed through the Strait of Malacca and into the South China Sea on 4 April.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has repeatedly vowed to re-unite the island with the mainland by force if necessary.

by Jr Ng