PLA conducts realistic combat exercise as US senator met with Tsai in Taiwan island
Provocations from self-serving politicians to speed China’s effort in solving question: expert
Published: Aug 26, 2022 11:33 PM

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) organized a multi-service and arms joint combat-readiness patrol and realistic combat exercise in the seas and airspace around the island of Taiwan, the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA announced on Friday afternoon, hours after US Senator Marsha Blackburn met with Taiwan's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen, discussing issues like regional security and semiconductor supply chains in a three-day visit. 

The Eastern Theater Command points out that the actual combat exercise is a regular military operation organized in accordance with the changing situation in the Taiwan Straits. The PLA will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.

According to information released by the Taiwan region's defense authority, eight PLA Navy vessels and 35 PLA aircraft were detected around the island on Friday, with 18 of the detected aircraft (SU-30, J-11, J-16 and J-10) having flown on the east part of the "median line" of the Taiwan Straits and the island's self-proclaimed southwest ADIZ.

Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, arrived in Taipei on Thursday night on board a US military aircraft, and she falsely and provocatively remarked that Taiwan has its own territory and said she "will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island," US media reported. 

During her meeting with Tsai, she expressed US support for the island and hoped that more firms in the semiconductor industry from the island will invest in the US. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday strongly denounced Blackburn's visit and urged relevant politicians to immediately stop any form of official exchanges with Taiwan and to immediately stop sending any wrong signals to secessionists, as it is a serious violation of the one-China principle and goes against the US commitment of maintaining only non-official ties with the Taiwan region.

"We will not waver in opposing 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities and external interference," read a statement published by the ministry. "China will continue to take strong measures to resolutely defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Blackburn's visit was the fourth visit made by US politicians in August, following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a delegation led by Senator Ed Markey, and a group led by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. 

Given that the US has just kicked off the implementation of the Chips and Science Act, the US wants to step up its efforts to attract investment in the hope of absorbing the Taiwan region's production capacity. There is competition among states in the US, said Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

It also cannot be ruled out that there's US arm dealers' interest behind the visit of Blackburn, who is also a member of the Senate's Committee on Armed Service, Lü told the Global Times, noting that perhaps Blackburn may urge Taiwan authorities to be more generous with their arms purchases from the US. 

Coincidentally, hours before Blackburn's plane landed in Taipei on Thursday night, the exclusive body on the island passed its 2023 defense budget of about $19.5 billion, a 12.9 percent increase from the 2022 edition. The budget involving military purchases from the US rose 13.9 percent.

Citing sources, Reuters reported on Friday that there will be attempts to push stuff into the Taiwan region, and "not just weapons." The sources also claimed that a spike in tensions won't change the US' current arms sale policy to the island.

Yuan Zheng, deputy director and senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday that the US Congress is in its summer recess, a period that some lawmakers may use to make some high-sounding excuses for a foreign visit about personal gains. 

With midterm elections looming, visiting the Taiwan region could be a plus for some anti-China American lawmakers, who may also be privately funded by Taiwan authorities, in terms of free travel and election sponsorships, Yuan said. 

In order to gain political and economic benefits, many US politicians are even willing to undermine their national security, regardless of China's reaction, Lü said. Interestingly, Pelosi's Taiwan trip was actually creating an opening for Republicans to play the Taiwan card. It's known that Blackburn is a "staunch backer" of former US president Donald Trump.

Although the level of a senator with an extreme anti-China ideology, such as Blackburn, is not as high as Pelosi's, China is still taking it seriously, Lü said, and the Americans should not be under any illusion that China will become inured to it because of the successive visits of US politicians. 

In fact, every US politician's visit to Taiwan will shorten the time for the final answer to the Taiwan question to emerge and make China's efforts to strengthen its own capabilities more visible, Lü said.

Analysts said that the US has always stressed that the cross-Straits status quo should not be changed unilaterally by any party, but in fact it was the US and the Taiwan authorities who jointly changed the status quo. 

The PLA is in the process of adapting to the new status quo, and it may maintain and appropriately intensify regular exercises and training in the future, Lü said. "The PLA and the whole country are looking forward to the day of reunification and are fully prepared for it."

According to the maritime safety administration bureau of Fujian Province on Wednesday, live-fire drills will be conducted on Friday and Saturday in a coastal region close to the Chinese mainland's side of the Taiwan Straits.