- BEIJING (AFP) - China will
use military drills this month to demonstrate its ability to dominate air
space over Taiwan, an essential element in any invasion of the island,
state media and analysts said Monday. Joint sea, land and air drills will
take place this month at Dongshan Island, just 150 nautical miles away
from Taiwan's Penghu Islands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed.
- "This year, aside from missile brigades, tank brigades,
marine brigades, warships and submarines, all advanced weapons will be
used in the exercise," an article in the Communist Party mouthpiece
People's Daily said.
- In previous exercises, the emphasis has been on crossing
the Taiwan Strait by ship for amphibious landings backed by missile attacks.
- "But in fact, the PLA (People's Liberation Army)
realized in 1999 that the launching of an amphibious landing offensive
on Taiwan would be hindered if mastery of the air and the sea were not
gained," said the newspaper.
- "That is why the PLA had decided to change its emphasis
on this drill."
- It said that instead "the PLA will likely put emphasis
on the seizure of air dominance over Taiwan in the 2004 military Dongshan
- Military experts cited in the paper said this implied
an "active" and "offensive" military drill.
- Independent analysts said the focus on air dominance
was a message that China was now in a position to attack Taiwan, should
it want to.
- "The emphasis on air supremacy is central to any
PLA offensive operations in the Taiwan Strait, but the Taiwan Air Force
has traditionally held the upper hand in this area," said one analyst.
- "But as the PLA Air Force has made rapid improvements
in this area with significant acquisitions of Russian fighters and attendant
weapons packages ... the air balance is now beginning to gradually swing
in China's favour.
- "This article clearly suggests that the Chinese
will use the Dongshan exercise as a forum to show that it can now succeed
in gaining air dominance against the Taiwanese, which is a major step in
making its threats of the use of military force, including an invasion,
- Last month, Taiwan said that its air force would practice
emergency landings on a freeway for the first time in 25 years amid renewed
tension with China.
- The scenario of the drill is that Taiwan's airports may
be destroyed should war break out with China, and that freeways may be
used for emergency landings, Defense Minister Lee Jye said.
- The People's Daily report did not reveal how many soldiers
would take part in the exercises, but a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper
recently said 18,000 troops would be involved.
- More than 100,000 troops were involved in a similar drill
- Tension between Beijing and Taipei has been heightened
since Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian was re-elected this year, with
China fearful his pro-independence moves are aimed at gaining formal independence.
- Beijing has vowed to go to war with Taiwan in the event
of it moving towards independence.
- China considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting
reunification. The island has been separated since the end of a civil war