Tensions mount as Beijing sends navy on Pacific drills south of Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 11:01pm

People’s Liberation Army naval forces passed through waters south of Taiwan and carried out military exercises in the western Pacific, the latest in a series of military drills that self-ruled Taiwan has criticised as amounting to “intimidation”.

J-15 fighters took off from Beijing’s sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on Friday for training in the area to the east of the Bashi Channel, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines, the PLA’s official newspaper reported on Saturday.

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PLA destroyers carried out offensive and defensive drills to test their capabilities, the PLA Daily said.

The defence ministry also carried pictures of the exercises on its website on Saturday.

Beijing has been ramping up military displays in the area over the last week.

On Wednesday, the navy carried out live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait in what state media said was a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan.

Taipei accused Beijing of “sabre rattling”, and carried out its own live-fire exercises on Tuesday on two Taiwanese islands close to the Chinese mainland.

On Thursday, PLA bombers flew around Taiwan in what the air force called a “sacred mission”.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said the PLA’s exercises, including the flight by the bombers, amounted to “military intimidation”.

Taiwan is one of Beijing’s most sensitive issues and a potential flashpoint. Beijing has ramped up military exercises around the island over the past year.

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The manoeuvres come at a time of heightened tension between Beijing and Taipei and follow strong warnings by President Xi Jinping last month against Taiwan separatism.

Xi presided over the navy’s largest-ever military display this month in the South China Sea, which involved 76 fighter jets and a flotilla of 48 warships and submarines.

Beijing’s military activities and growing assertiveness has worried its neighbours as well as the United States, whose Pacific command called Beijing a “disruptive force” in January.