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PLA to conduct maneuvre at Dongshan Is. this month
2004/07/09

Following the large-scale joint beach landing exercise at Dongshan Island in 2001, the PLA (Chinese People's Liberation Army) is again to carry out a sea, land and air joint military exercise this month at Dongshan Island in Fujian Province, just 150 nautical miles away from Taiwan's Penghu Islands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms.

At a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 1, spokesman Liu Jianchao stressed that it is both necessary and reasonable to hold military exercise in order to beef up army building.

The military exercise at Dongshan Island began in 1996 and has so far been held eight times. PLA maneuvers at Dongshan Island are mostly focused on joint beach landing drills by various services and arms and are conducted once almost every year, differing only in scale. The "Liberation No.1" exercise conducted in 2001 is the largest joint exercise of the three services (army, navy and air force) ever, employing the most sophisticated equipment. Nearly 100 000 troops took part in this four-month exercise.

A stage showing elite of the PLA
Unlike other exercises, the exercise at Dongshan Island is essentially a joint war game staged by the three services as well as the largest routine exercise held annually by the PLA.

A review of past Dongshan Island exercises shows the most distinctive feature of the exercise is that the PLA pays the greatest attention to the need of actual combat in regard to the formation of forces. So the "fist" powers of the PLA make their appearance one after another in the exercise.

In previous Dongshan Island exercises, the forces were, in the main, exclusively organized by Nanjing and Guangzhou military area commands. But in 2001, troops participating in the exercise, besides those from the above-mentioned two areas, were also army groups from Jinan and Beijing military areas, naval vessels from the Donghai Sea Fleet, the Nanhai Sea Fleet and the Beihai Sea Fleet, navy air force, four armies of the Air Force, the 2nd artillery and national defense reserve troops.

In the 2001 Dongshan Island maneuver in particular, quick response troops were employed for the first time in trans-military region and trans-theater exercises. The special force, formed with members of a group army of Beijing Military Command, was hastily transported to Fuzhou War Zone by IL-76 transporter.

Flashpoint emerges in each exercise
The PLA has constantly quickened its steps in "strengthening the army via science and technology" since the 1990s. On the basis of introduction and absorption, it has developed a huge batch of hi-tech armament of advanced international level, which greatly enhances the joint combat capabilities of the three PLA services.

The Dongshan Island military exercise represents an examination of the training level and operational thinking of the PLA, as well as a window showing the armament development of the PLA. Said armament has become an important flashpoint in military maneuvers.

This year, aside from missile brigade, tank brigade, marine brigade, warships and submarines, all advanced weapons will be used in the exercise.

Emphasis given to mastery of the air
Viewed from past exercises, the PLA put emphasis on crossing the Taiwan Straits, landing on the Taiwan Island and missile attack. The joint exercise at Dongshan Islands features fierce attack on Taiwan targets from multi positions and directions from land, sea and air.

But in fact, the PLA realized in 1999 that the launching of an amphibious landing offensive on Taiwan would be hindered if mastery of the air and the sea were not gained. That is why the PLA decides to change its emphasis on this drill. According to a report of Cankaoxiaoxi (Reference News), the PLA will likely put emphasis on the seizure of air dominance over Taiwan in the 2004 military Dongshan Island exercise.

This change not only indicates a great change in the army building thinking of the PLA, but also shows the deepening understanding of the PLA about the modern war ideology of "air supremacy", and the importance it attaches to air force development. Chinese Air Force has been gradually inclined to reduce Taiwan Air Force's air control over the Taiwan Straits; thereby further limiting its scope of activities within the Island and restricting the space of its movement, so that the PLA air force will finally have air dominance over the Taiwan Straits.

Military experts say that the Dongshan Island exercise held this time by the PLA for the "seizure of air control over the Taiwan Straits" is no longer the previous "preventive" military drill directed against "Taiwan Independence", but rather to a large extent, it implies an "active", "initiative" and "offensive" military drill, making it one of the tactics to impose military pressure on Taiwan.

Each exercise is strongly purported
If the exercise in 1996 is targeted at Lee Teng-hui's proclamation "ROC in Taiwan"; the exercise of 2000 is directed against Chen Shuibian's substantive "Taiwan Independence" policy, the exercise of 2001 is an explicit warning to Taiwan authorities and the foreign country that attempts to interfere in the Taiwan Issue not to "play with fire". Then the exercise this year is a substantial warning to "Taiwan independence" elements.

Meanwhile, all past Dongshan Island exercises were drills for attacking specific targets. Exercise to attack outlying islets was conducted on the assumption that Taiwan proclaimed independence. In that case, the PLA would immediately take the Penghu Islands, forming a deterrent and an outpost position for racing to control Taiwan Island. Attacking aircraft carrier, cruise missile, fighter plane and armed helicopter is carried out on the assumption that war were broken out in the Taiwan Straits and foreign countries had their military involvement there, the PLA forcefully prevented foreign countries from meddling in China's internal affairs, supporting "Taiwan Independence" and even invading China.

By People's Daily Online

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