PLA gets ready to celebrate upcoming Army Day with advanced weaponry display, realistic combat preparations amid Taiwan Straits tensions
By Liu Xuanzun Published: Jul 31, 2022 08:47 PM Updated: Jul 31, 2022 09:40 PM
At a time when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly planning a trip to the island of Taiwan in a very provocative and risky move that could escalate tension in the Taiwan Straits to a conflict, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is getting ready to celebrate the August 1 Army Day by not only revealing some of its latest achievement in weaponry and equipment development, but also with concrete and realistic combat preparations to warn off "Taiwan independence" secessionist and external interfering forces, who are just like what Chairman Mao Zedong once said, all reactionaries are paper tigers.
Shortly prior to Army Day, which falls on August 1, the PLA revealed new progress made in its advanced weaponry and equipment including its hypersonic missile, amphibious assault ship, aerial tanker and large destroyers, all of which are described by military analysts as having important roles to play if a conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday released a video titled "The capabilities of the Chinese troops shown in 81 seconds", celebrating the upcoming Army Day. A scene in the video showed the launch of what seems to be a DF-17 hypersonic missile from a transporter erector launcher on a highway in a desert, with observers saying that this could be the first time the PLA has revealed a footage on the live-fire launch of the DF-17, which is highly mobile, impossible to intercept, and can hit stationary and moving targets in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and Northeast Asia, including aircraft carriers.
A separate report by CCTV on Friday showed a scene in which the Z-20 utility helicopter was in an integration training with the Type 075 amphibious assault ship at sea. This is also the first time an official report has confirmed the Z-20 has started training on the Type 075, with the combination believed by military observers as an important tactic in amphibious landing missions on locations like the island of Taiwan, as helicopters can provide another, vertical dimension in such operations. The Z-20s can carry aerial assault troops and land in terrains ships cannot reach, while a Type 075 can carry dozens of such helicopters, according to reports.
At a press conference on Sunday, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, a spokesperson of the PLA Air Force, announced that the YU-20 aerial tanker has started to join combat readiness training. He also said the encirclement flights of the PLA Air Force's multiple types of warplanes around the island of Taiwan have enhanced the PLA's capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Experts said that the YU-20 can boost other warplanes' long-range operational capabilities, including to the east side of the island of Taiwan, giving Taiwan secessionists no ability to hide while also intercepting foreign forces that might wish to interfere.
The Type 055 large destroyer Yan'an, which was commissioned into the PLA Navy not long ago, recently held realistic combat drills in the South China Sea, making the PLA Navy having six active 10,000-ton class large destroyers at its command, according to media reports. Widely believed to be the most powerful surface combatant in the world, the Type 055 not only outshines other countries' destroyers in almost every aspect, but it can also reportedly launch "aircraft carrier killer" hypersonic anti-ship missiles. The large destroyers can either operate in aircraft carrier groups or lead flotillas on their own, as they will play an important role in keeping external forces from interfering in the Taiwan question, analysts said.
Since foreign media reports came out saying Pelosi is weighing a trip to the island of Taiwan, China responded firmly with both words and actions.
Tan Kefei, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of National Defense, said on Tuesday that the PLA will not sit idly by if Pelosi visits the Taiwan island and they will take strong measures to thwart any external interference and any "Taiwan independence" separatist attempts.
According to navigation restrictions issued by China's Maritime Safety Administration and media reports, the PLA has been holding live-fire, realistic scenario exercises across all major sea regions including the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea over the past and coming days, including one in waters off Pingtan on Saturday. Pingtan is 125 kilometers away from the island of Taiwan divided by only the Taiwan Straits.
Facing the PLA's drills, the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which was operating in the South China Sea over the past few days with US analysts suggesting it can provide escort to Pelosi's flight, has left the region as it has arrived in the San Bernardino Strait by Saturday, according to the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
No matter where the US carrier will go, it will serve no good in escorting Pelosi to land in Taiwan, as the island of Taiwan is close to the Chinese mainland, and the PLA has more aircraft and vessels than the US carrier strike group, not to mention its aircraft carrier killer missiles, analysts said.
With Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan, this year's Army Day is a special one, with concrete and realistic combat preparations being made against one of the most severe provocations against China's sovereignty since the 1996 Taiwan Straits crisis, analysts say.
The PLA, in showing its capabilities, is telling the US that if they insist on provocation, the PLA will take every manner of countermeasures, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and the PLA is unequivocal on this question that it can fight and win, Song said.
Experts, analysts and observers suggest that the PLA should send warplanes to intercept Pelosi's flight if it were to land in Taiwan. Some others said the PLA should surround the island of Taiwan with live-fire military exercises and block Pelosi's flight.
A short social media post by the PLA 80th Group Army on Friday saying "Preparing for war!" gathered more than nearly two million thumb-ups as of Sunday, with netizens commenting to celebrate the Army Day and express their wish for reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Straits soon.
The official website of US House Speaker on Sunday released a press release, announcing that Pelosi is leading a Congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan in the itinerary, without mentioning Taiwan as a destination.
It cannot be ruled out that Pelosi may still make a surprise visit to the island of Taiwan, and the PLA is prepared for all possibilities, analysts said.
Monday is the 95th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, only five years away from the PLA's centenary.
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Sunday attended a reception to celebrate the 95th founding anniversary of the PLA. The reception was held at the Great Hall of the People by the Ministry of National Defense. Xi, also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, was joined by other senior leaders of the Party and the state.
State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said at the reception that the PLA should accelerate its modernization and strive to build a solid national defense to match China's international status and suit national security and development interests. This will provide strategic support for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
In Wednesday's visit to the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution, exhibiting achievements made in strengthening China's national defense and armed forces in the new era, Xi stressed persistent efforts to strive ahead with diligence to realize the goals set for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.
Xi called for new advances in building stronger armed forces to shore up the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Presiding over and addressing a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Thursday, Xi stressed further implementing the strategy of strengthening the armed forces by training competent personnel in the new era. Xi also urged efforts to give better play to the talent's role in spearheading and underpinning the cause of building a strong military, Xinhua reported on Friday.
Noting that the world has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation, Xi said China is facing mounting instability and uncertainty in the national security situation.
The PLA has already reached mechanization, and it is expected to develop further in terms of informatization and reach intelligentization, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Sunday, requesting anonymity.
In five years, the PLA's third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, will likely be commissioned, the J-20 stealth fighter jet will likely be in service in large numbers, and the long-speculated next-generation strategic bomber will eventually make its appearance, the expert said.
The combination of equipment and personnel is important, so personnel training and talent fostering will also need to reach a next level, he added.
On the Taiwan question, reunifying the motherland and stop secession are the sacred duties of the PLA, but on the long term, the PLA's goal is to become fully modernized by 2035 and become world-class in the mid-21st century, experts say.
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