As China tests military muscle, PLA warns Taiwan efforts to resist reunification with force are dead end

  • PLA uses sea and air training exercises to rattle sabre at Taipei
  • Taiwan says more Chinese warships are skirting its air defence zone
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 6:05am

The People’s Liberation Army said that Taiwan would run into a “dead end” if it resisted the mainland’s reunification efforts with force, and that Beijing would continue its “encirclement patrols” in waters and airspace around the island.

Wu Qian, spokesman for the defence ministry, said the PLA conducted drills near Taiwanese airspace last week as part of routine training.

“The relevant military training is an annual routine arrangement and similar exercises will continue,” he said on Thursday.

“I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force,” Wu said, referring to the self-governed island’s plan to increase its military muscle to counter the PLA.

The warning came after Taiwan’s defence ministry announced that it may buy 66 F-16V fighter jets from the United States to reinforce the island’s air defence capability. Plans to acquire the US’s F-35 Lightning stealth fighter were abandoned.

Military analysts said the warning was aimed at President Tsai Ing-wen’s government policy of developing missiles and interceptors of its own to reduce the PLA’s military advantage over Taiwan.

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Wu said Taiwan would only face a “dead end” if it insisted on fighting the mainland’s reunification efforts by military force.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

“Beijing is very unhappy to see the US is continuing arms sales to Taipei, as well as promoting more US-Taiwan official and military exchanges,” said Arthur Ding, an associate research fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm.

The mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office has repeatedly said that Taiwan would face a “dead end” if it refused to recognise the “1992 consensus”, which is an understanding that the mainland and Taiwan are part of “one China”, but leaves room for interpretation as to which government has a legitimate claim to represent it.

Alexander Chieh-cheng Huang, a professor of strategic studies at Tamkang University and a former deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said that Beijing’s warning would not help it win public support in Taiwan, and ran counter to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s notion that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait are of one family”.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it saw PLA H-6 heavy bombers, Y-8 transport aircraft and Sukhoi-30 fighter jets leaving Guangdong’s Huiyang airbase on Tuesday morning for a patrol over the Bashi Channel – the waterway that separates Taiwan from the Philippines – on their way to the western Pacific Ocean.

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Meanwhile, Taiwanese military also detected two more PLA warships sailing outside Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, which were believed to be taking part in what Beijing described as “routine” distant sea exercises.

The PLA halted its encirclement patrols in June for several months as Taiwan prepared for elections. Military and political analysts said the move indicated Beijing did not want to further upset the Taiwanese people.

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The poll resulted in the island’s independence-leaning ruling party’s defeat in seven of the 13 cities and counties it had controlled, which prompted President Tsai Ing-wen to resign as the party’s chairwoman.

Wu said the PLA’s combat-ready capability “has made rapid progress” and that the PLA was determined to protect the territorial integrity of China.