Wednesday, February 1, 2023

China Accuses US Of Escalating Tensions Around Taiwan After Pentagon Approves Another Defense Deal For ‘Renegade Province’

The Us has escalated the situation around Taiwan by repeatedly violating the one-China principle, selling arms to the island and sending its officials there, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the US approved a $330 million sale of aircraft parts and equipment to Taiwan following the island’s request for extra equipment for its F-16, C-130 fighter jets, and other planes.

“In recent years, on the one hand, the US has made serious commitments to China on the Taiwan question, while, on the other hand, was eroding the one-China principle, continuing arms sales to Taiwan, introducing negative bills related to Taiwan and sending senior officials to visit Taiwan, further aggravating tensions across the Taiwan Straits,” Tan said in a statement, as quoted by the defense ministry.

The spokesman urged the US to respect China’s key interests and concerns in the region; otherwise, it will escalate tensions between the two countries and “eventually draw fire against the US itself.”

Earlier in the day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the US State Department’s decision to approve the possible sale of several hundred million dollars worth of aircraft parts and equipment to Taiwan, adding that it would send a wrong signal to the “Taiwan independence separatist forces.”

US-China relations worsened after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in early August. Beijing condemned Pelosi’s trip, which it regarded as a gesture of support for separatism, and launched large-scale military exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan.

China ‘Wants’ Taiwan

The Chinese military recently conducted massive drills to demonstrate how the People’s Liberation Army Navy may employ huge civilian ferries to begin a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan.

According to August 31 satellite footage, the PLAN sent an amphibious landing craft to a Chinese beach close to the Taiwan Strait. The PLAN had stationed a substantial fleet of warships and civilian ferries offshore.

After leaving the beach and swimming to the auto ferries, the PLA landing craft loaded the amphibious assault craft onboard at sea using a ramp mainly built for that purpose. The landing craft then left the ferries and returned to their starting point.

These drills came after the PLA organized large-scale military drills deploying missiles, aircraft, and warships in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.

The exercises started on August 4 in six water areas around the island and lasted several days. Chinese warships and warplanes have been hovering around Taiwan in what has become known as the new normal.

Tom Shugart, a defense analyst who follows Chinese military maneuvers, tracked seven civilian dual-use amphibious ferries during the exercise. He noted on Twitter that all seven ferries belonged to the Bo Hai Ferry Group, formally known as the Eighth Transport Group of the PRC Maritime Militia. The firm’s vessels have frequently participated in PLA amphibious assault drills.

The 15,000-ton, multipurpose cargo ship Bo Hai Heng Tong was a roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) ferry participating in the drills. The boat’s internal parking “lane” is three decks long and three-meter wide. According to Shugart, this results in a vehicle cargo capacity nearly three times greater than that of an amphibious warship of the San Antonio class.

This vessel is not special. Bo Hai Heng Da, the sister ship, was also constructed in the same period and to the exact specifications. They typically work in the Bohai Sea, as their name suggests. Bo Hai Heng Tong, however, sailed more than 1,000 miles south to be opposite Taiwan for the drill.

The PLAN is not new to enhancing amphibious warfare ships with civilian vessels and ships taken up from trade. The Chinese Navy has used it for years. Some have guns on their decks for shore bombardment, while others are employed for transportation.

However, launching craft – like the 26-ton ZTD-05, an amphibious armored vehicle used by the PLA – at sea is a new development, Shugart said.

In addition, it has long been discussed by military experts and observers that any Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be accompanied by an overwhelming marine and amphibious assault for which the PLA has been preparing.

PLA’s Amphibious Invasion In The Works

Under the watch of the PLA Navy, China is increasing the size of its maritime force. The Chinese troops are getting the training and tools they need to land and advance ashore. According to estimates from the American and Japanese militaries, China currently possesses 25,000 and 35,000 marines, from just 10,000 in 2017.

According to Grant Newsham, a retired colonel in the US Marine Corps and scholar at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, without an amphibious force, any military force is significantly confined in where and how it may conduct operations. “Jets can drop bombs, and ships can fire missiles at the shore – but you might need infantry to go ashore and kill the enemy and occupy the ground,” he said.

J-15 China
Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark (via Twitter)

According to China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) report, although a typical over-the-beach amphibious landing is unlikely to be the first military strategy used in a war against Taiwan, the PLA is unmistakably geared up for the prospect should other choices fall short.

Six amphibious combined arms brigades (ACAB), two each assigned to the three group armies stationed in the Eastern and Southern Theater Commands closest to Taiwan, make up the bulk of the PLA Army’s contribution to the deterrent and war-fighting tasks there.

The six amphibious combined arms brigades will collaborate with members of their parent group armies and theatre commands to execute operations if directed to do so against Taiwan or its outlying islands. Additional Army forces from outside the area will likely support these actions.

This is also where the civilian ferries and their assistance comes into the picture. The new RoRo ships, introduced in 2020, are noteworthy in several aspects. Compared to most other ships in their class, they are larger.

They are versatile ships with a big landing decks for helicopters. They are built to accommodate various vehicle types and cargo from the outset, making them useful for an amphibious assault.

Shugart said, “China’s roll-on/roll-off ferries are very well-suited to support” any invasion of Taiwan. “Civilian augmentation will be essential, if not providing the majority of the required sealift capacity.”

China considers Taiwan an inalienable part of the Chinese mainland and has vowed to reunite it with force if necessary.

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