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PLA's drills intended to show capabilities to invade Taiwan

Taiwan air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets prepare to take off from Hualien Air Force Base on 6 August 2022. The aircraft were scrambled to monitor PLA live-fire drills around the island. (Annabelle Chih/Getty Images)

A series of drills conducted by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently are intended to demonstrate its warfighting capabilities to invade Taiwan.

The drills, which began on 4 August, were officially started to illustrate Beijing's displeasure over a 2 August visit by the US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. However, the state-owned newspaper, Global Times, said on 6 August that the military drills not only promote reunification of Taiwan with the mainland but also “rehearsed a potential real operation”.

Between 4 and 7 August, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) disclosed 113 incursions by PLA aircraft into the country's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Out of these, at least 78 incursions involved PLA aircraft crossing the median line. This line is the de facto sea border separating China from Taiwan.

The incursions appear to be part of a concerted effort by Beijing to mitigate the median line. The MND said on 5 August that China is trying to “change the status quo of Taiwan Straits” through the drills. Janes assesses that the PLA's breaches of the median line will become more regular as Beijing moves to minimise the importance of the line.

The PLA drills are also very likely to have helped China determine how well its air units can conduct specific operations, such as air support for a potential landing assault.

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