The Chinese regime’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said in a high profile announcement that it will hold a live-fire military drill on the China side of the Taiwan Strait on April 18.
In response, Taiwan told its citizens that the drill is just a routine exercise and they have nothing to fear.
The April 18 drills were first reported by Global Times, the regime’s state media outlet known for having a nationalist bent and often serving as a platform for nationalist agit props.
The Maritime Safety Administration of Fujian, the Chinese province that faces Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait, announced that the live-fire drill will take place in a small area of water next to the Fujian coast.
The drill, despite being set at only 12 nautical miles from China’s coast and a long distance (100 nautical miles) from Taiwan’s main island, has been sensationally described by Global Times and other Chinese state media as to take place in the “Taiwan Strait,” amplifying the perceived threat of the exercise. International media have also been quick to pick up the term and describe the drill as a demonstration of Beijing’s will to provocate.
Taiwan’s government assured the people of the democratic island nation that the Chinese drill is a “routine exercises”, and said that its armed forces are closely watching the development and will respond to any contingency.
Some observers say China’s use of the “Taiwan Strait” is a deliberate move by the regime’s propaganda outlets to generate fear among the Taiwanese and the international community.
“The PLA is using the media to generate a false sense of insecurity in Taiwan. This is an act of political warfare,” said Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute. “At this point, there is nothing to worry about other than Chinese ships or aircraft crashing into each other in the 8 a.m. fog at the mouth of Quanzhou Bay.”
Easton, who also authored a recent book “The Chinese Invasion Threat,” which discusses the defense of Taiwan in the event of a PLA invasion, said that the planned exercise area is small and no major troop movements have been reported.
“U.S. and Taiwanese military intelligence will be monitoring this exercise closely, just in case the PLA takes this opportunity to do something provocative,” he said.
The Chinese announcement also came just hours after President Xi Jinping inspected a large naval parade held by the PLA around the southern island province of Hainan, which was widely televised to the world as a demonstration of the PLA’s rapidly growing sea power.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited one analyst who said the Chinese drill is meant to be a show of support to China’s strategic partner Russia, in an effort to divert world attention from the ongoing crisis in Syria where an imminent U.S. strike is possible.
The report, however, has not been backed up by any other sources, and other observers such as Easton said that the plan for the drill was “almost certainly planned many months ago.”
In recent months, the Trump administration has taken various steps to affirm its support for Taiwan against Chinese regime aggression. Just last week, Taiwan’s long-standing request to solicit help from American companies in building its own indigenous submarines was approved by the U.S. government, a move that was strongly protested by the Chinese regime.
Trump has also signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act—which was passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress—and seeks to encourage high-level official exchanges between United States and Taiwan.
The act was also strongly protested by Beijing, which insisted that the U.S. government should refrain from any official engagement with Taiwan as it considers the island nation to be Chinese territory.