China is preparing for American and Japanese intervention in the Taiwan Strait conflict, with warplane exercises being publicly displayed around the island in an effort to isolate Taiwan from potential support, experts in Beijing and Taipei say.
Ten People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft, including fighter jets and reconnaissance planes, flew into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, with the Japanese Defense ministry reporting two additional PLA warplanes crossing the East China Sea and Miyako Strait between Japanese-controlled islands.
The waves of Chinese aircraft – which Taiwan's Deputy Defense Minister, Chang Che-ping, described as a part of a naval and air force "joint operation" – appear to show Taiwan surrounded on three sides, a clear political statement pointed at Taiwan, Japan, and the U.S. governments.
According to Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, the Chinese military was "continuing to increase its combat preparedness by making its routine exercises more complex and realistic and taking possible U.S. and Japanese interventions into consideration."
In addition to this, the PLA struck targets in eastern Taiwan "but also lock down the island entirely from possible interventions by U.S. and Japanese forces," another report from Beijing says.
Experts see a political message in China's military exercises
Senior security analyst Su Tzu-Yun from Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research described the Chinese operation as a "political signaling" by Beijing. He also commented that Monday's operation demonstrated China's ability to isolate Taiwan if the U.S. and Japan attempt to assist Taipei during a Taiwan Strait contingency.
Su pointed out that this is the first time he had observed a Chinese warplane reaching eastern Taiwan by flying through the Miyako Strait instead of using the Bashi Channel. The analyst believes that this move was included as a message to Japan, which would be obligated to support Washington if the U.S. were to intervene in the Taiwan conflict.
China "wanted to show it could surround the Japanese islands, too," Su noted as PLA flight patterns released by Japan's defense ministry on Monday show that one Chinese reconnaissance plane made a run on the Japanese island of Yonaguni, about 70 miles from Taiwan's east coast.
Japan is reportedly contemplating increasing its troop presence on the island of roughly 1,700 inhabitants as a response to the growing tension in the region.