In a first of such move in 2023, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) announced on Sunday it conducted joint alert patrol and combat exercises around the island of Taiwan on the day countering collusions between external and "Taiwan independence" forces, with Chinese mainland experts saying that the PLA will only intensify its drills this year if provocations do not stop.
Focusing on practicing land attack and sea assault, the PLA Eastern Theater Command organized cross-service joint alert patrol and realistic combat-oriented exercises in sea and aerial areas around the island of Taiwan on Sunday, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson at the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement on Sunday.
This is the first time that the PLA Eastern Theater Command has announced a joint drill around the island of Taiwan in 2023, with the previous one held on December 25, 2022, shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden signed the latest National Defense Authorization Act that marked the first time the U.S. government will finance weapons for the island of Taiwan.
The drills on Sunday aimed at testing the troops' joint operational capabilities as well as countering collusions between and provocations by external and "Taiwan independence" forces, Shi said.
While Shi did not name the exact collusions and provocations, observers noted a number of military interactions between the U.S. and the island of Taiwan since the PLA Eastern Theater Command's last exercise in late December. The U.S. announced the possible sale of Volcano anti-tank mine-laying system to Taiwan for an estimated $180 million on December 28, 2022, and sent the USS Chung-Hoon guided missile destroyer through the Taiwan Straits on Thursday.
The PLA's large-scale exercises around the island of Taiwan has become routine, and they take place not only when the PLA announces them, but on a daily basis, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.
If external interference and "Taiwan independence" forces continue to provoke, the PLA will also intensify its drills, which not only warn them, but also practically enhance combat readiness in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the expert said.
In 2022, the PLA sent 1,727 planes into the island of Taiwan's self-proclaimed air defense identification zone, compares with about 960 incursions in 2021 and 380 in 2020, AFP reported, citing releases by the defense authority on the island.
The AFP report noted that the growth in PLA aircraft sorties in 2022 could be a result of the PLA's response to then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's provocative visit on the island in August.
Kevin McCarthy, who was elected as the new House Speaker on Saturday, should also understand the signal the PLA has sent, analysts said.