Chinese Warship Presence in Taiwan Waters Hits Record High, Raises Concerns of Intimidation:
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has reported an unusual deployment of 16 Chinese vessels in the waters surrounding the island during the course of a 24-hour period, signaling a recent escalation in tensions. Concerns have been aroused by this development, which is considered as the most recent move in China’s on-going, Communist Party-led drive to intimidate Taipei.
Following a series of exercises earlier in the week, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) increased its activities. During those exercises, a large number of Chinese warplanes crossed the unofficial median line of the Taiwan Strait and infiltrated key areas of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
Over a span of 72 hours, a staggering total of 73 PLA aircraft crossed the median line, which, although not officially recognized by Beijing, had been mostly respected until recently. Simultaneously, several PLA vessels were spotted in the waters surrounding Taiwan for three consecutive days.
The presence of 16 Chinese warships during the Friday-to-Saturday timeframe marked an all-time high since Taiwan’s Defense Ministry began issuing daily updates on PLA activities around the island in August 2022.
Carl Schuster, an analyst based in Hawaii and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, described the situation as a significant military effort. He emphasized that the continuous PLA activities around Taiwan serve a twofold purpose: firstly, they present a range of potential attack routes for Taiwan’s defense planners to consider, and secondly, they serve as practical training and rehearsal for a hypothetical moment that could involve a Chinese invasion.
The self-governing democracy of Taiwan, which China’s ruling Communist Party regards as its territory despite never having been in power there, has long been the target of diplomatic isolation efforts by China. Forceful intervention to seize control of the island has not been ruled out as a possibility.
Chinese state media has been quick to showcase the naval activities, proudly noting that the PLAN has set a record for the number of deployed vessels in the region. The Global Times published an article highlighting the PLA’s encirclement capabilities around Taiwan, suggesting that the recent intensive exercises demonstrated their strength.
While specific details about the types of warships involved were not disclosed by Taiwan’s Defense Ministry or Chinese state media, it is believed that the exercises may have included amphibious landing training. The Global Times article featured an image of a PLAN amphibious assault ship, claimed to be taken during a recent maritime combat exercise.
Experts predict that the pressure on Taiwan will continue to escalate, with expectations of more complex and extensive exercises in the coming years. Carl Schuster anticipates that next year’s exercises will involve larger units and a wider range of activities.
As tensions between China and Taiwan continue to mount, the international community closely monitors the situation and the potential implications for regional stability.