Military strategists were treated to what may have been a preview of China’s plans to subdue Taiwan when the country performed drills in response to Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to the island. Charles Hutzler explains that rather than a full invasion, China may be planning a blockade. He writes in The Wall Street Journal:
China’s live-fire exercises around Taiwan this week are simulating the steps it might take to seal off the island with a blockade, previewing the kind of coercive tactics Chinese leaders may employ in a future conflict.
The four-day exercises, to protest the visit to Taipei earlier this week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, started at noon on Thursday in six zones that effectively encircle Taiwan. Several of the zones face the island’s biggest commercial ports and overlap with what Taipei claims as its territorial waters, coming within 12 miles of its coastline in what some military analysts have compared with a temporary blockade.
Beijing sees Taiwan as Chinese territory to be taken by force if necessary and has undertaken a decadeslong military buildup to achieve that goal and deter the U.S., the island’s longtime security partner. Still, many military analysts and China specialists think Beijing lacks capabilities to launch an outright invasion, making such an operation too complex and risky in the next few years.
Instead, in a crisis, they think Beijing would try to squeeze rather than flatten Taiwan into submission.
“They are amassing forces to look like a blockade to show that they can do it,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. “It’s a signaling exercise.”
The Chinese military started the exercises Thursday with drills involving warplanes and ships, as well as multiple ballistic missiles fired into waters bracketing Taiwan. Military analysts expect large naval and air maneuvers to be staged in coming days to demonstrate control of the waters around Taiwan.
The proximity of the action to ports and shipping lanes has forced some delays for cargo and aviation, a small taste of the pain China could inflict on Taiwan and world markets. The self-governed island is a leading producer of the advanced semiconductors critical to products from cars to advanced weaponry.
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