PLA drills off SE coast could involve all branches, a 'warning' to Taiwan secessionists: insiders

By Guo Yuandan Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/15 14:44:53

An amphibious armored assault vehicle (AAAV) attached to an amphibious combined brigade with the PLA 73rd Group Army moves forward on the beach during the live-fire maritime amphibious assault training in waters of the East China Sea on June 13, 2019. File photo:

The recently announced People's Liberation Army (PLA) drills near the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland could feature all five military branches in a large scale joint exercise, and it might be tailored as a warning to Taiwan secessionists, mainland military insiders said.

The Chinese PLA carried out a regular exercise at seas and in air space including the areas off the southeast coast in recent days, according to a statement released by the Ministry of National Defense on Sunday.

The exercise was a routine arrangement in accordance with the PLA's plans for this year, it said.

While a regular exercise along the southeast coast may not seem special, it's unusual for the Defense Ministry to actively announce it, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times.

"Anything the Defense Ministry releases is no small matter, it must be big," the expert said.

According to public reports, the PLA conducted regular drills near the southeast coast in 2014, 2016 and 2018. But in those cases, it was the media that reported the drills first, before the Defense Ministry confirmed them.

The Sunday statement by the Defense Ministry did not specify which branches could be involved in the drills, only saying that it was the PLA, so all five military branches - the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force - could be participants in this possibly high-level, large-scale joint exercise.

Another military insider, who also asked not to be named, told the Global Times that the wording of the statement suggest the exercise was not led by a single military branch, and it might be organized by a joint command center of the Theater Command or even of the Central Military Committee.

Foreign media and media on the island of Taiwan suggested the PLA exercise might be connected to the recent approval by the US of a possible arms sale to the island, and Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen's transit through the US.

The military insider said the timing could be coincidental, because the PLA conducts all kinds of military exercises in the vicinity every year.

But the statement of the Defense Ministry does not include phrases like "The drills are not aimed at any specific target," or "There is no need for over-interpretation," which are common in other exercise announcements, the anonymous expert pointed out, noting that this could be an indication that the exercise this time indeed has a specific target in mind.

The exercise can better test the PLA's ability to thwart any secessionist activities and maintain the  national sovereignty and territorial integrity,  the insider said. The more Taiwan secessionists stir up trouble and the more foreign support Taiwan secessionists receive, the sooner the day arrives when China becomes reunified, the insider added. 

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