Marines assigned to a brigade of the PLA Navy Marine Corps move forward for assault after disembarking from their amphibious armored vehicle during a beach raid training exercise in the west of south China‘s Guangdong Province on August 17, 2019. (Photo: eng.chinamil.cn)
The Chinese People‘s Liberation Army (PLA) has been holding frequent and intensive amphibious landing and naval drills in what analysts said are sending warnings to Taiwan secessionists.
Some of the recent exercises featured amphibious tanks storming the beaches and civilian ships transporting tanks and armored vehicles across the sea. Ongoing drills may feature China‘s second aircraft carrier the Shandong, as well as other advanced warships, or even the test firing of new weapons like the JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile or the electromagnetic railgun.
The PLA 73rd Group Army recently conducted a live-fire assessment in a location on the southeastern coast, in which 68 amphibious tanks stormed the beaches from the sea in a coordinated attack under a rough sea situation, as the tanks launched concentrated main gun shooting and released smoke to camouflage the assault, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
In another training operation, the PLA 74th Group Army used a large civilian cargo ship to transport more than 50 tanks, armored vehicles and infantry fighting vehicles across the sea, according to a separate report by CCTV.
The 73rd Group Army and the 74th Group Army are based in eastern and southern China, and both are believed to be the main forces which would be used in a potential landing mission on the island of Taiwan.
The subjects featured in these two exercises are normal and routine, and they are basic capabilities of the PLA, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Thursday.
The PLA always stands ready to reunify Taiwan and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Taiwan secessionists should not underestimate this, the expert said.
In addition to these amphibious exercises, the PLA is conducting naval drills in the Bohai Sea, according to the Maritime Safety Administration.
A military mission is ongoing from Tuesday to June 16, and a live-fire drill will be held from Friday to Wednesday, both in the Bohai Sea, read two navigation notices released by the administration this week.
While neither notice gives any detail on the two drills, military observers noted that at least one likely features China‘s second aircraft carrier, the Shandong. It has started military missions since May 25 to test its weapons and equipment and improve the level of aircraft carrier training to enhance the troops‘ ability to perform missions and tasks, said Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the , at a regular press conference on May 29.
When the Shandong set out on May 25, a Maritime Safety Administration notice restricted access to an area in the Yellow Sea from May 25 to Tuesday. This time period connects to the Tuesday-to-June 16 restriction notice, meaning the Shandong might be now training in the Bohai Sea, as the carrier has not been seen back in shipyard, observers noted.
Few information is available for the other drills, as military analysts said they could be regular exercises featuring China‘s advanced warships that focus on tactical and technical training. Some have even speculated that they may involve test firings of new weapons like the JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile or the electromagnetic railgun.
Near the Bohai Bay, the PLA is also conducting a live-fire drill in the northeastern sea areas off Tangshan, North China‘s Hebei Province, from mid-May to the end of July.
These exercises show the PLA has entered an intense training season with the aim of boosting combat capability, the anonymous expert said, noting that if COVID-19 brought any delays to the training schedule, they are likely being caught up.