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Beijing develops capacity to strangle Taiwan, experts say

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — China’s military exercises show that Beijing does not need to invade Taiwan to control it, but can instead strangle the self-governing island, cutting it off from the outside world, Chinese and US analysts say.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drills, which officially began last Thursday, focused on six zones that essentially surrounded Taiwan, restricting access to civilian ships and aircraft in the area, as forces conducted live-fire and air-drone drills. of missiles.

Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, said the six areas were chosen to show how China could isolate Taiwan’s ports, attack its most important military installations and cut off access to foreign forces that might come to its aid. from Taiwan.

“Connect the six areas in a line, like a rope, with the knot of the rope just heading southwest,” Meng said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.

China launches intimidation tactics against Taiwan after Pelosi’s visit 1:31

The Communist Party of China sees democratic Taiwan as its territory, even though it has never controlled it. Uniting Taiwan with the mainland is a cornerstone of Chinese policy and President Xi Jinping has not ruled out the use of force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.

Meng noted that the northern exercise areas had successfully isolated Taiwan from Okinawa, the island where both Japan and the United States have significant military assets. In the southern areas, the PLA showed that it could control the Bashi Channel, “the only way in and out of the South China Sea,” he said. And in eastern areas, China’s forces demonstrated that the precise launch of Chinese missiles could force foreign warships away from Taiwan’s waters, he added.

“This is an unprecedented encirclement of the island of Taiwan,” Meng said.

And on Monday, China issued a notice to say the exercises were continuing.

The origin

The exercises began after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi angered Beijing by visiting Taipei last week to show support for democracy on the island.

Beijing flooded the seas and skies around Taiwan with ships and planes: Up to 80 Chinese warplanes and ships were detected in the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.

In previous days, the PLA has also fired rockets at small Taiwan-controlled islands near the mainland and launched ballistic missiles further afield, some flying over Taiwan and landing in the ocean to the east of the island. Five fell in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, a message to one of Taiwan’s key supporters as well as the Taipei government.

A map of the six Chinese exercise areas “clearly outlines where the Chinese believe the key operational areas for their strategic intimidation of Taiwan are,” Mick Ryan, an associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former general in the Australian Army, wrote. On twitter.

What happens between China and Taiwan? 3:31

Ships and commercial planes were warned to stay away from the exercise zones, forcing carriers and airlines to organize alternate routes.

Carl Schuster, former director of operations for the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, said the six-area blockade showed that any takeover of Taiwan could begin with an isolation strategy.

“The exercise demonstrated that blocking a conflict does not need a constant naval presence on the high seas, but rather that sea and air traffic can be deterred by air and missile threats in support of a sea blockade,” Schuster said.

“The exercise…suggests that Beijing would first isolate Taiwan and resort to air and missile strikes in hopes of breaking Taipei’s political will. A costly invasion is likely to be a last resort,” Schuster said.

what could come next

Schuster said that much of what Beijing demonstrated had been in the works for a long time. The drills coincided with standard military exercises on the PLA training schedule, but he said Pelosi’s visit allowed China to make a bigger statement.

“The size, geographic spread and complexity of the exercise reflected months of planning,” he said. “This exercise marks the latest escalation in China’s expanding military exercise and Taiwan’s campaign of intimidation.”

He said he hopes the PLA will continue to put pressure on Taiwan and could also send a message to Japan with more drills in the north of the island.

New exercises are also likely to take place in the South China Sea, the 1.3 million square miles of water, nearly all of which China claims as its sovereign territory, where Beijing has built military fortifications on disputed islands, he said. Schuster.

While the ongoing exercises will allow the PLA to hone its tactics and operations, they can also provide an opportunity for adversaries to learn about the modern Chinese military, experts say.

“Nothing provides better insights into the actual capability of an Army than seeing it deployed,” Ryan, the former Australian Army General, wrote on Twitter.

With the drills last week, Xi had to show that he would not waver in his commitment to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control, Schuster said. Pelosi’s visit to the island posed a direct threat by presenting an alternative vision of democracy.

“(Pelosi) leads the democratically elected branch that originates the economic and funding policies of the US government. Her position and role make her commitment to Taiwan’s security particularly significant,” Schuster said.

“Unable to intimidate her, Xi had to demonstrate China’s power: diplomatic, economic and military,” he said.

While the military exercises gave Xi strong visuals to back up his resolve, China also hit Pelosi and the US government with a variety of sanctions.

The measures include the cancellation of future phone calls and meetings between Chinese and US military leaders and the suspension of cooperation on issues including the repatriation of illegal immigrants, legal assistance in criminal matters and combating transnational crimes. Talks on climate change were also suspended.

Beijing also announced measures targeting Pelosi and members of her immediate family.

“The goal is intimidation by applying all elements of Chinese power,” Schuster said.

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