Taiwan warns of rising threat as PLA warships conduct drill

Island’s defence minister sends warning as the mainland’s sole aircraft carrier heads for first open sea training in the Western Pacific

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 10:48am

Taiwan warned on Tuesday that “the threat of our enemies is growing day by day” as mainland warships led by the PLA’s sole aircraft carrier sailed towards Hainan province through the South China Sea as part of a drill.

The drill comes amid tension over US president-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan’s president, and the signing into law of a US defence spending bill that included for the first time a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan.

Zhang Zhexin, a US affairs ­observer from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said Beijing was sending a signal that it had the military strength to pressure Taiwan.

“And Beijing wants to tell the US that China has already prepared militarily for a turbulent or tense regional situation under the Trump administration,” Zhang said.

On Monday, Taiwan said the Liaoning, the People’s Liberation Army’s first aircraft carrier, passed some 90 nautical miles south of Taiwan's southernmost point through the Bashi Channel on its way to the carrier’s first blue-water drill in the Western Pacific.

China’s sole aircraft carrier spotted heading to first open sea training drills

“The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should ­always be maintaining our combat alertness,” Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said ­yesterday.

“We need to strengthen the training [of our soldiers] so that they can not only survive in battle, but also destroy the enemy and accomplish the mission,” he said.

The Pentagon did not directly comment on the latest drill, but said that the United States recognised the right to the lawful use of sea and air space.

“We continue to observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region,” spokesman Gary Ross said.

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier heads to Western Pacific for first blue water drill

Raffaello Pantucci, the director of international security studies for the Royal United Services ­Institute in London, said Beijing wanted to show it was a maritime power that could project force.

“The US has been the dominant military force due to its carrier groups and significant capabilities. But [with this drill], China is able to show it also has some growing capacity, meaning the US dominance is not necessarily completely assured forever,” Pantucci said.

Additional reporting by Reuters