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Chinese military drills mainly target U.S. and Japan: experts

2018/01/01 20:39:32

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Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) The recent expansion of China's long-distance training drills over waterways near Taiwan were mainly targeted at the United States and Japan while also attempting to intimidate Taiwan, experts said recently, urging the government to prepare for possible incidents.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, Chinese aircraft and vessels operated near Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) 25 times from August 2016 to Dec. 2017.

By sending its planes and ships past the "first island chain" into the Western Pacific China has gained multiple benefits in terms of military capability, a senior air force military officer who wished to remain anonymous told CNA.

The drills were not exclusively targeted at Taiwan but also sought to pressure neighboring countries, the officer said.

Indeed, as the drills have prompted military responses from neighboring countries, China has been able to collect intelligence on the defense parameters of those countries and analyze their reactions, the officer said.

Citing the inclusion of Tu-154 MDs, a reconnaissance aircraft, in several of the exercises, the officer said the purpose was to systematically collect intelligence on the air defense forces in islets along the southwestern coast of Japan, the officer said.

"While they (China) tried to collect intelligence, we also carried out counterintelligence operations," said another anonymous air force officer.

The officer said the Republic of China (Taiwan) military has been able to better assess the combat readiness of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) from information provided by the drills, including from which airport the planes took off, how many flights were involved and what weapons they carried.

Alexander Huang (黃介正), an assistant professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, concurred that the drills were mainly targeted at the U.S. and Japan.

One of China's purposes was to demonstrate its ability to break through the "first island chain" blockade led by the U.S. and Japan under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, in addition to becoming more familiar with the air combat environment, Huang said.

Chieh Chung (揭仲), a senior assistant research fellow at the National Policy Foundation, said the drills were also aimed at intimidating Taiwan, a point emphasized by the PLA's release of photographs of airborne warplanes.

The photos included air-launched cruise missile CJ10 with a range of 1,500 km carried by Xian H-6 strategic bombers on Dec. 9, he said.

If Xian H-6 strategic bombers fly into the western Pacific and stay outside Taiwan's air defense perimeter and the defense range of land-launched long-range surface to air anti-aircraft missile systems, they would still be capable of launching cruise missiles against eastern Taiwan, he said.

Nevertheless, the experts did not consider military action by China against Taiwan an imminent probability at the present time.

However, Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University's Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, proposed a simulated exercise on the premise that Chinese warplanes ask to make an emergency landing in Taiwan due to technical issues or severe weather.

As China continues to conduct drills, the focus of concerns should be more on "non-man-made" incidents than China launching missiles against Taiwan, Lin said. "Mechanical failure is always a possibility."

(By Lu Hsin-hui, Liu Li-jung, Lin Ke-lun, Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/AW