Taiwan: Chinese Army Preparing Military Exercises Aimed at Taiwan
The exercises were to take place in June and July on Dongshan Island in southeastern Fujian province just 150 nautical miles west of Taiwan's Penghu Island, the New Express Daily said, citing a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper.
China has become increasingly agitated with independence-leaning Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, and the report referred to the exercises as the first-ever aimed at "striving to control the Taiwan Strait."
The 18,000 soldiers will be deployed from the land, navy and air force of the Nanjing Military Region, where some 500 short-range ballistic missiles are pointed at Taiwan.
"Sukoi Su-27 fighter jets will be outfitted with KN59M guided air-to-surface missiles in an effort to maintain control over the Taiwan Strait and ensure that tank brigades can make a landing and engage in warfare," the report said.
Submarines, war ships and a guided missile brigade would also be involved in the exercises that were to be led by Lieutenant General Huang Jiang, it said.
Soldiers were deployed on Dongshan Island in mid-May where tanks and armoured personnel carriers had been practicing amphibious landings daily on Jinluan beach, it said. It was not clear if the exercises had already begun.
According to Hong Kong's Apple Daily, the exercises would be smaller than simliar drills held during the summer of 2001, when some 100,000 soldiers engaged in similar amphibious exercises and mock sea warfare aimed at sinking an aircraft carrier.
Since the re-election of Chen in March, and especially since his inaugural address on May 20, the mainland has racheted up the rhetoric on Taiwan, reiterating its long-standing vow to take the island by force should Chen move the territory towards formal independence.
Beijing has considered Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification since the end of the civil war in 1949.
Taiwanese defence officials said in April that Taiwan was conducting its own massive military exercises to evaluate the island's defense capabilities against the threat of attack from China.
The seven-month drills, codenamed "Han Kuang (Han Glory) 20", are scheduled to end in November and would test the joint operations of the armed forces.
Taiwan's defense ministry has previously warned of the possibility of an attack by China unless the island continues to strengthen its defensive power as a deterrent.
The United States has repeatedly urged China and Taiwan to refrain from any provocative actions, and it blasted Beijing in a defense department report last week for developing a variety of "credible military options" to prevent Taiwan from achieving independence.
China Monday blamed Washington's arms sales for the deteriorating state of cross-Strait ties.
"Due to the support and connivance of the United States, Taiwan authorities have gone further down the road toward 'independence' and the United States is responsible for the current worsening situation across the Taiwan Straits," the official Xinhua news agency said.