Late last week, a record 16 Chinese warships were spotted in the waters around Taiwan in 24 hours, the island's defense ministry said. That, analysts say, is the latest sign of a campaign to intimidate Taipei by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
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The 24-hour activity of the People's Liberation Army Navy, which ended at 6 a.m. local time on Saturday, July 15, followed an exercise early last week in which dozens of Chinese warplanes flew past the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered key regions of Taiwan's air defense identification zone.
Within 72 hours in the middle of last week, 73 People's Liberation Army aircraft either crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait — an informal demarcation point that Beijing does not recognize but until recently largely adhered to — or entered the southeastern or southwestern parts of the island's air defense identification zone.
Over the next three days, nine vessels of the People's Liberation Army Navy were reported in the waters around Taiwan.
The 16 Chinese vessels around Taiwan from July 14 to 15 became the highest number since the island's Ministry of Defense began providing daily updates on People's Liberation Army naval activity around the island in August 2022.
"This is an escalating military effort," said Carl Schuster, a Hawaii-based analyst and former director of operations at the U.S. Northern Command North-Pacific Joint Intelligence Center.
The military operations indicate Beijing's dual efforts, he said.
First, the ongoing activity of the People's Liberation Army around the island creates a number of possible routes of attack for which defense systems need to be developed, and secondly, it is "practice, rehearsal and training for the 'moment' if it comes," Schuster said.
This "moment" could be a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party claims a self-governing democracy, treating it as its territory, although it has never controlled it, and has tried for decades to diplomatically isolate the island. Beijing does not rule out the possibility of using force to seize the island.
Chinese state media on July 16 praised maritime activity, noting that the People's Liberation Army navy "broke the record for the number of vessels involved in exercises in the region," according to the Global Times.
"Analysts said on July 16 that the latest intensive exercises demonstrate the ability of the People's Liberation Army to encircle the island," according to an article in the Global Times.
Neither Taiwan's Ministry of Defense nor an article in the Global Times gave details about which People's Liberation Army navy warships were in the waters around Taiwan.
However, Chinese state media said the People's Liberation Army naval drills "allegedly included amphibious assault training," and the article was accompanied by a photo of an amphibious Navy amphibious assault ship, which they said was taken "during recent training on real combat operations."
Schuster believes that the People's Liberation Army Navy will continue to increase pressure on Taiwan.
"We will see more such exercises, and next year they will be more complex and large-scale with the participation of military units and the scope of their actions," he said.
Recall that the Chinese warship on June 3 staged a provocation with the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon in the Taiwan Strait – it twice approached a US ship, creating a threat of collision.
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