China's training missions near Taiwan a show of capability: experts
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) Two recent training missions by Chinese military aircraft near Taiwan can be regarded as strategical declaration by China that it is capable of engaging in military operations not just west of Taiwan, but also on the east side, according to two Taiwanese analysts.
Some 10 military aircraft from the Eastern Theater Command -- one of five war zones designated by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) -- embarked Saturday on a long-distance training mission, during which they flew over the Miyako Strait near Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, according to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense.
Four of the aircraft then turned south toward the Bashi Channel, where they joined several fighter jets from the Southern Theater Command, circling outside Taiwan's air defense identification zone in the south before returning to base, the ministry said.
It was the second time in less than a month that Chinese military aircraft circled near Taiwan but did not enter the country's air defense identification zone, the MND said.
Commenting on the two training missions, former Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said they were a strategical declaration by Beijing that it can "break through the first island chain" off the east coast of continental Asia.
This includes the Kuril Islands, Japanese Archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo, which was the chain of islands that the United States used to block China during the Cold War era, said Lin, who served five terms as a lawmaker and a member of the legislative Foreign and National Defense Committee.
He said the missions were also strategical training for Chinese military pilots, familiarizing them with the areas off eastern Taiwan, testing their ability to respond to Taiwan's air force, and allowing them to collect intelligence.
China wants to let Taiwan know that its so-called "safe base" on the east coast is now not so safe, Lin said.
He said that if China ever launches an attack on Taiwan, it will be a full-scale military operation.
Expressing similar views, Shih Hsiao-wei (施孝瑋), the host of the Taiwan-based Military and Aviation News website, told the press that the Chinese air force's recent actions were an indication that the PLA is now capable of launching long-distance strikes on eastern Taiwan.
The recent missions were also meant to send a warning signal to Washington, after the U.S. Senate passed a national defense authorization bill on Dec. 8 to allow high-level Pentagon officials to visit Taiwan, Shih said.
(By Chen Chun-hua, Claudia Liu and Elizabeth Hsu)
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