THE People's Liberation Army (PLA) is currently staging an unprecedentedly large series of war games including amphibious land-ing exercises in coastal areas opposite Taiwan. The manoeuvres, some of which have been reported in the official media, are apparently aimed at forcing the Kuomintang administration to begin reunification talks. Reports of forthcoming exercises in the front-line provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang caused the Taiwan stock index to plunge 187.72 points, or 3.82 per cent, to 4,729.37 - its lowest level since December 1993. The PLA Daily reported that units attached to the Fujian military district had stepped up exercises along the coast, including amphibious landings. The PLA's official mouthpiece boasted that the members of the amphibious units were as agile as 'sea serpents and dragons'. It said one regiment had practised seizing and holding beaches, clearing obstacles at sea and taking part in combined army and naval operations. The paper also reported a manoeuvre by troops based in Yunnan which involved crossing the Hong River under difficult conditions. Other war games have been reported in the Chengdu, Beijing and Jinan military regions. It is understood Beijing will continue with its scheduled exercises along the Fujian and Zhejiang coasts at least throughout the autumn. But the size of the manoeuvres and their proximity to Taiwan has yet to be finalised. Taipei has traditionally been most wary about amphibious exercises because they are seen as PLA preparations to invade the island. The Taipei-based, mass-circulation United Evening News yesterday reported the PLA would hold a large landing drill in the two front-line provinces around National Day on October 1. It said the goal of the war game was to show the PLA had the ability to secure islands while using a combination of units. Quoting Chinese sources, the paper said large numbers of troops had been moved to Fujian and Zhejiang, and that the war games would involve units from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Defence analysts said yesterday the PLA had done combined drills in the two provinces since the missiles exercise off the northern coast of Taiwan last month. Meanwhile, the semi-official Central News Agency confirmed Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui had declined an invitation to attend a joint Taiwan-United States economic conference to be held in Alaska next month. The agency reported Taipei would instead send Economics Minister Chiang Pin-kung, Finance Minister Lin Chen-kuo and Health Director Chang Po-ya to the meeting in Anchorage between September 22 and 25. The Taiwan media said the decision was a move to avoid further angering Beijing. Mr Lee's decision was believed to have been made under careful evaluation, the reports added.