PLA continues large scale warplane exercises near Taiwan
Published: Jan 25, 2021 07:07 PM

Two fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command taxi to the runway in preparation for a round-the-clock flight training exercise on January 11, 2021. ( by Fu Gan)

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly continued large-scale warplane exercises near the island of Taiwan on Sunday by sending 15 warplanes, two more than on Saturday, as Chinese mainland analysts said Monday that the routine drills are becoming increasingly closer to real-life combat. 

A total of 15 PLA aircraft, namely two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, two Su-30 fighter jets, four J-16 fighter jets, six J-10 fighter jets and one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft entered the Taiwan authorities' self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone on Sunday, the island's defense authorities said in a statement on the same day.

Compared with Saturday, when the PLA reportedly sent 13 warplanes, including eight H-6K bombers, Sunday's operation featured two more aircraft and among all warplanes more fighter jets, military observers noted.

According to the flight paths released by Taiwan's defense authorities, Sunday's PLA exercises also covered larger areas than Saturday, with two J-10 fighter jets flying near the Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea and the two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft flying further and closer to the Bashi Channel.

The PLA has been conducting routine warplane exercises in the region for five months, as many types of aircraft including different fighter jets, bombers and special mission aircraft have participated, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Monday on the condition of anonymity.

The more exercises held, the more familiar the PLA will be in the region with related techniques and tactics, as the troops' capability to fight real combat grows, the expert said.

On Saturday, the US sent its aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the South China Sea from the south of Taiwan island for routine operations, but Chinese mainland experts said the PLA exercises were routine and not necessarily related to the US operations.

The US State Department released a statement on Saturday, claiming the Chinese mainland's military pressure against Taiwan "threatens regional peace and stability," but also said "maintains its longstanding commitments as outlined in the Three Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Six Assurances."

Chinese mainland experts said the statement is a key clarification of the Biden administration's stance on the Taiwan question, and while it showed that the US is not giving up its continued interference in China's internal affairs over the Taiwan question, it also indicated the new US administration seems willing to keep a certain level of ambiguity on the Taiwan question, which provides the possibility for China and the US to form a level of tacit understanding.

The routine exercises by the PLA showed the Taiwan secessionists that the one-China principle will not change, regardless of what policies from the new US administration could be, analysts said.