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China military begins fresh Taiwan drills showing ‘new normal’

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence on Monday said it had tracked 13 PLA Navy vessels and 39 aircraft on Monday

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence on Monday said it had tracked 13 PLA Navy vessels and 39 aircraft on Monday

A day after concluding unprecedented live-fire drills that effectively blockaded the waters and skies in six regions surrounding Taiwan, China’s military began new exercises and training activities that analysts said indicated a new normal in military presence in the Taiwan Strait.

On Monday, the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command, which had carried out the four-day live-firing drills from Thursday until Sunday, said in a brief statement it had continued to conduct “realistic combat-oriented joint exercises and training” in the waters and airspace around Taiwan “focusing on organising joint anti-submarine and sea assault operations”. It did not say when the new drills would conclude.

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Chinese analysts told State media the continuation of the drills was aimed at signalling such exercises taking place east of the median line in the Taiwan Strait and closer to Taiwan would become routine and a new normal.

In the wake of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 3 visit, the Chinese military’s drills, which began a day after, for the first time saw a large number of aircraft and warship cross the median of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence on Monday said it had tracked 13 PLA Navy vessels and 39 aircraft on Monday, of which 21 aircraft had again crossed the median.

The Communist Party-run Global Times said this week’s new exercises “further practiced seizing the control of the sea with anti-submarine drills”.

“Monday’s exercises mean that the PLA has extended its drills surrounding the island of Taiwan, which were originally scheduled to conclude on Sunday noon,” the newspaper said, quoting military analyst Song Zhongping as saying “as long as the Taiwan question is not solved, drills like these will not stop”.

The continuation of the drills on Monday came as a surprise. While maritime authorities had last week issued a notice declaring the location of the six restricted zones until Sunday, no such notice was published this weekend. Analysts speculated that the latest drills would not involve live-firing or missile launches that would disrupt shipping and aviation, as the four-day exercises had done.

Last week’s exercises simulated an attack and carried out an effective blockade around the island of Taiwan, and also included the firing of conventional missiles over the island into waters to its east.

Taiwan has criticised the drills as a provocation that has undermined peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, while Beijing has justified the moves as a response to Ms. Pelosi’s visit, the most high-level from the U.S. to Taiwan in 25 years, which it saw as a violation of the “One China Policy”.


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