Mainland China kicks off PLA blockade around Taiwan, 3 days after William Lai speech

Zhang Chi, an associate professor at the National Defence University in the mainland, told state broadcaster CCTV on Thursday morning that the PLA forces are practicing the blockade of Taiwan.

“We know that Taiwan is an isolated island… Most of Taiwan’s energy consumption relies on imports, especially its oil consumption, which is almost entirely dependent on imports,” Zhang said.

“Therefore, once it is besieged and blocked, it can easily lead to economic collapse and become a dead island. This time, the PLA’s exercise focused on practicing the new model of blockade.”

Part of a livestream on Thursday screened by state broadcaster CCTV to cover the launch of the PLA’s two-day military exercises around Taiwan. Photo: CCTV

Zhang said in the interview that conducting drills in the northern part of Taiwan was “a deterrent to important political and military targets in Taipei”, while the exercises in the south are targeting the city of Kaohsiung – the island’s largest port and home to its naval garrison.

“The exercise has the intention to strangle Kaohsiung port, Taiwan’s maritime gateway, and it could be a heavy blow to Taiwan’s foreign trade.”

Zhang pointed out that Kaohsiung is also an important garrison for the Taiwanese navy. “This exercise shows that the PLA can firmly trap the Taiwan authorities’ navy in the port,” he said.

The PLA drills to the east of Taiwan are intended to “blockade” Taiwan’s lifeline of energy imports and the escape route for “Taiwan independence” forces who want to evade sanctions and flee abroad, according to Zhang.

The blockade of the eastern side of the island would also prevent the US and its allies from assisting Taiwan, he said.

The eastern side of Taiwan – which faces the Pacific Ocean – is shielded from the mainland by mountains. It is usually considered the weak leak in the Taiwanese military defence and has been targeted in other recent PLA drills.

Song Zhongping, a mainland military commentator and former PLA instructor, said the PLA is using the drills to practice a “ blockade” of Taiwan.

“It is a warning to Lai,” Song said. “It is not the first time the PLA did so, but this time is is more severe,” he said.

The PLA said the exercises will focus on naval and air combat readiness patrols, seizing battlefield control, precise strikes of crucial targets, as well as warship and aircraft patrols near the island to “test the joint combat and real combat capabilities of the theatre forces”.

Beijing slammed Lai’s inauguration speech, accusing him of being “more radical” in his approach and sending a “dangerous signal” on Taiwan independence. Lai went further in the address than his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen did in 2016 when she first took power.


Furious mainland China slams Taiwanese leader’s ‘blatant’ call for independence

Furious mainland China slams Taiwanese leader’s ‘blatant’ call for independence

The Taiwanese defence ministry released a statement calling the drills a provocation that disrupts regional peace and stability, adding that its naval, air and ground forces are standing by.

The coastguard force in Fujian – the mainland province just across the Taiwan Strait from the self-ruled island – said it sent a fleet on Thursday to take part in patrols of Wuqiu and Dongyin, two outlying islands controlled by Taipei.

The PLA has recently included mainland coastguard forces in its drills near Taiwan, and patrols by coastguards have ramped up since February, when two fishermen from the mainland died after their boat capsized during a chase by Taiwanese patrol vessels near Quemoy.

The mainland slammed Taipei, accusing it of using “violent and dangerous methods” in the incident.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory, to be returned eventually to mainland control, by force if necessary, and views Lai as a separatist and troublemaker who advocates for independence – Beijing’s red line that must not be crossed.

Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan. However, Washington is opposed to any unilateral change to the status quo and is committed to the defence of the island. The US is also Taiwan’s main supplier of arms.

Hours after Lai was sworn in on Monday, Beijing slammed his inauguration speech.

The PLA drills combine army, navy, air and rocket forces and are taking place to the west, north and east of the main island of Taiwan, as well as near its outlying islands. Photo: CCTV

A statement by the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the speech “stubbornly adheres to the stance of ‘Taiwan independence’, vigorously promotes the fallacy of separatism, incites cross-strait confrontation, and attempts to ‘rely on external forces to seek independence’”.

Days ahead of Tsai’s inauguration in 2016, the PLA conducted military drills in China’s southeastern waters, without mentioning the Taiwan Strait. At the time, Beijing said the exercises were routine and based on the PLA’s annual exercise plans.

Since then, Beijing has ramped up military pressure as cross-strait relations under Tsai plunged. The PLA Navy launched unprecedented massive drills around the island in 2022 after then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi defied Beijing’s repeated warnings and visited Taipei.

Eastern Theatre Command also released a series of posters, featuring military hardware that is “already in place” and targeting “Taiwan independence, according to a post on its social media account on Thursday.

The J-20, China’s most advanced fighter jet and the J-16 featured in the posters with the slogan “cross-strait lethality”, along with a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, DF missiles and long-range rocket launchers.

Included in the poster line-up was the Type 071 landing platform dock, capable of carrying a large number of troops, together with amphibious armoured vehicles, air-cushioned landing craft with tanks, as well as helicopters.


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