The Chinese People's Liberation Army's (PLA) planned live-fire drills around Taiwan will partly encroach on the nation's territorial waters and test the ability of its armed forces to ensure the drills do not escalate into direct conflict as they monitor the situation, experts said Wednesday.
Minutes after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's flight landed in Taipei late Tuesday night, the PLA announced that it is to hold live-fire drills in six maritime areas around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday, one of which is just 20km from Kaohsiung, according to a map provided by the PLA.
China's state-run Global Times Wednesday reported that the planned drills will breach the Taiwan Strait median line and mark a "new beginning" signaling the lifting of all restrictions for future PLA military exercises in the Strait.
Based on the locations of the planned drills and the positioning of the U.S. carrier strike group near the Taiwan Strait, Beijing and Washington are set to adopt the same strategy they did during the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996, Tamkang University Assistant Professor Lin Ying-yu (???) told CNA.
Where the current situation differs from the 1996 crisis is that several of the planned drills are inside a contiguous zone extending 12 nautical miles from the border of the nation's territorial sea, and some even border Taiwan's territorial sea, which is an unprecedented maneuver and a break with standard practice, Lin said.
However, whether the PLA will fire missiles or send aircraft or ships into Taiwan's territorial sea remains to be seen and will likely be contingent on Pelosi's words and actions during her visit, as well as the position of Taiwan and the U.S., he said.
Meanwhile, the strategy of forming a blockade around Taiwan is likely a lesson learned from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in which Russia has suffered setbacks due to the U.S. and its allies providing Ukraine with intelligence gathered by air early warning and reconnaissance aircraft, he said.
In establishing a blockade, China is attempting to test the efficacy of blocking airborne reconnaissance efforts by Taiwan and its allies in preparation for a potential future conflict in the Taiwan Strait, he said.
The planned drills are more concerning than the missile tests China conducted off Kaohsiung and Keelung in 1996, which were beyond 24 nautical miles from the baseline of Taiwan's internal waters, said Chieh Chung (??), an associate research fellow at the Kuomintang (KMT) think tank National Policy Foundation.
On the other hand, some of the planned drills will border Taiwan's territorial sea and block sea routes off the Port of Kaohsiung and the Port of Keelung, he said.
If Taiwan and PLA vessels fail to maintain a proper distance, there is a grave risk minor conflicts could break out, he said, adding that this scenario will put the crisis management capability of Taiwan's armed forces to the test.
The PLA is likely to take more drastic measures than test-firing missiles as it did in 1996 in an effort to intimidate Taiwanese, Defense International Magazine editor Chen Kuo-ming (???) said.
Most commercial ships and flights will likely circumvent the locations of the planned drills, but this will push up shipping cost, he said.
Taiwan's Navy will find itself at a disadvantage if the PLA sends warships to all the designated drill areas, as it has fewer flagships than the PLA, he said.
Chen noted that the possibility of minor conflicts cannot be ruled out, but added that Taiwan's Navy and its U.S. counterpart have prepared for this situation.
China has long denied the existence of the Taiwan Strait median line, and the planned drills are set to underscore that position, Chinese military expert Zhang Xuefeng (???) said.
Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense Wednesday condemned the planned drills, which it said will endanger international waters.
The plans negatively affect the status quo in the Strait and undermine regional stability, it said, adding that Taiwan's armed forces will take any countermeasures necessary to defend the nation.
Separately on Wednesday, the KMT issued a statement "condemning in the strongest terms" any actions that compromise stability in the Taiwan Strait, undermine regional stability and endanger Taiwanese.
The Republic of China (Taiwan's official name) is a sovereign country and has the right to host international friends, the KMT said.
Both U.S. President Joe Biden and Pelosi herself have made clear that her visit does not change Washington's Taiwan policy, it said, calling on all sides to refrain from overreacting and escalating tensions.
It is the KMT's unwavering stance to support the ROC armed forces and efforts to bolster the nation's defense capabilities, the statement said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel