Implications Behind PLA Warplanes' Cruise Around Taiwan Island
(Source: China Military Online; issued April 19, 2019)
According to Taiwan media report on April 15, Taiwan authority has confirmed that the KJ-500, H-6K, Y-8, Su-30 and J-11 aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been cruising around Taiwan, with Taiwan troops scrambling F-16 fighter jets for interception.

The spokesperson of PLA Eastern Theater Command said that the Eastern Theater Command recently dispatched its naval and air forces, including ships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, to cruise around the Taiwan island and conduct necessary training and drills, testing the capability of multi-service integrated joint operations. The spokesperson stressed, “The troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command always keep in mind their missions and tasks, strive to enhance their capability of winning battles in the new era, and resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

This long-range drill coincides with events to mark the 40th anniversary of the so-called “Taiwan Relations Act” between the US and Taiwan. There are two profound meanings behind the restart of island patrols.

Firstly, to deter “Taiwan independence”

Tsai Ing-wen began to gradually move closer to the US after Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had suffered a humiliating electoral defeat in 2018. Tsai has publicly hyped the “Chinese mainland threat theory” in Taiwan, and rapidly warmed up relations with the US. Tsai’s moves are reminiscent of Chen Shui-bian, who tried to promote “Taiwan’s de jure independence” in 2005 and ended up being jointly controlled by the mainland and the US. Later, DPP was out of power for eight years after losing the election.

Today, our navy is far stronger than it was in 2005. A stronger military means that we are more confident and have a bigger say. Restarting the island patrol is an important display of a clear change in Chinese mainland’s approach towards Taiwan, aiming to deter the “Taiwan independence” forces led by Tsai Ing-wen with the strong military power. It is also a statement that the PLA has the strength to protect our country. As far as I’m concerned, it is very likely to be normalized.

Secondly, to warn the US not to intervene in China’s domestic affairs

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has approved to renew a $500 million training program in the US for Taiwan F-16 pilots and maintenance crews on April 15. The US Statement Department also claimed that the move would help improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient.

The special timing of the approval for the latest arms sales to Taiwan unveils the evil intentions of the US. On the one hand, it has its own strategic considerations. The US pursues the policy of “using Taiwan to contain China” and wants Taiwan to become part of its “Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

On the other hand, the US wants to maximize its own interests. As China’s military strength grows, the US should have been aware of its gradual weakness on the Taiwan question. The US wants to maximize its interests when there is still chance.

By restarting the island patrol, China lays bare its strategic posture on the US’ interference in Taiwan question. As President Xi Jinping emphasized while delivering a speech at a gathering to commemorate the 40th anniversary of “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” in January, “The Chinese people’s affairs should be decided by the Chinese people. The Taiwan question concerns China's core interests and the national feelings of the Chinese people. No outside interference is allowed.”

Island patrol is a legitimate and justified arrangement. When asked about recent cruise around Taiwan, the spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China responded: “Taiwan authority, led by the Democratic Progressive Party, made use of the drill to deceive and mislead the residents of Taiwan and to provoke and escalate cross-Straits confrontation. Any attempt to undermine cross-Strait relations and the peace and security of the region will not succeed. Nobody should underestimate our adamant resolve and ability to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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