Pipa News |
China on Thursday doubled down on its decision to punish Taiwan for hosting US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warships and planes crossed the midline dividing the strait. Through its belligerent act, Beijing has unilaterally ensured the collapse of the decades-long tacit military agreement with Taipei.
The midline in the strait was established in 1955 as a de facto maritime boundary, separating mainland China from Taiwan, with Washington pressuring both sides to adhere to an unspoken agreement not to cross it. Neither side breached the midline until China said last September that “there was no midline in the Taiwan Strait.”
The last two days changed all that. On Wednesday, more than 22 aircraft crossed the midline with Chinese warships. About 10 Chinese Navy ships crossed the midline and remained in the area from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon.
Although the PLA has conducted several exercises around the strait in the past, this time it is different. The exercises are close to war and according to Chinese media “rehearsals for reunification.”
“silent agreement” [between the two militaries] has been broken. This time, the PLA aims to push the boundaries both in weapon systems and in actual strategy,” Song Zhongping, a former Chinese military instructor, told the South China Morning Post.
The PLA took the unprecedented step of firing missiles directly at the island and sending military drones over Taiwan’s airspace. The South China Morning Post said that in addition to sending shock waves to the islands, the PLA acts are intended to “put Taiwan’s defense forces on the back foot and reduce their time for preparation”.
Lu Lee-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy, said the missiles and rockets were part of a “cognitive warfare” strategy designed to spread fear and panic.
Although Taiwan’s armed forces could track these DF-15 missiles that flew over its airspace, there was little they could do about them because of their high-altitude trajectory. “It’s a cognitive warfare strategy to spread panic in Taiwan. You can see the danger, but you can’t do anything to stop it,” Lu said.
Meanwhile, rockets fired from the Pington base were seen by Chinese tourists strolling on the island’s beaches. Squadrons of PLA helicopters were also seen swarming the island.
The PLA Eastern Theater Command also said it sent over 100 warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, on various missions during the day. This included its most advanced stealth fighter, the J-20, and the newly introduced aerial oil tanker, the Y-20U.