The dozens of warplanes flying daily over the median line in the Taiwan Strait and warships prowling the waters off the coast represent a significant and ominous change to the status quo.China’s massing of ships, aircraft and missiles near Taiwan is giving the U.S.That makes these quickly assembled exercises around Taiwan a critical test for Beijing.The dozens of warplanes flying daily over the median line in the Taiwan Strait and warships prowling the waters off the coast represent a significant and ominous change to the status quo, and one that could have enormous consequences for the defense of Taiwan in the future, experts and officials said.Chinese military planners are no doubt soaking up the reaction to their efforts, as Taiwan activates missile defense radars and moves troops and equipment around the island, giving Beijing key insights into how Taipei might react in time of war.Defense officials said the military is watching the exercises closely, but generally, they have remained quiet about the Chinese actions.Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while traveling in Cambodia Friday, said “there is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate, and escalatory military response,” adding the Chinese moves “are a significant escalation” in the region.While the Chinese military has tested its missiles for years, their launch crews have never worked in an operational scenario where they have to wrestle with the complexities of military and commercial air and sea traffic, and ensure their missiles can make it over populated civilian areas and land safely in designated waters.On Friday, China sent 30 fighter planes across the median line that cuts the Taiwan Strait in half, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.The drills have provided an opportunity to not just test whether their missiles can hit their targets in an operational scenario, but also whether China’s ships and planes can effectively blockade the island through their military movementsThe last time China made moves around Taiwan to this extent was in 1996, when Beijing fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait after being angered by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui’s visit to the United States to give a speech about the island’s democratizationBut the modernized Chinese military of today barely resembles the force of 1996, boasting of new missiles, the largest navy in the world, two aircraft carriers, and fighter planes that rival Taiwan’s F-16s and U.S
The quick-reaction exercises “allows the PLA to put to test and validate the outcomes of its modernization” efforts and reforms carried out over recent decades,” Koh said
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