China is flexing its military muscles. After massive naval maneuvers in the South China Sea last week, a live fire exercise is underway today in the Taiwan Strait. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
China last fired live ammunition in the Taiwan Strait in September 2015, during the run-up to Taiwan’s elections.
If those exercises were intended as a show of force, they backfired – Tsai Ing-wen and the independence minded National Democratic Party swept to power.
Last week, Commander in Chief Xi Jinping presided over the biggest naval exercises in modern Chinese history, with 10,000 sailors, 48 ships and submarines and 76 aircraft. Dressed in a navy uniform, President Xi told the crew of a destroyer that the need for a strong navy has “never been more urgent” then he watched aircraft launch from China’s only carrier, the Liaoning.
While most of China’s navy is ultra-modern, the Liaoning was built by the Soviet Union, acquired by Ukraine, then transferred to China. Reconstruction took ten years, but China applied the lessons learned to its first domestically constructed carrier, which begins sea trials in the next month, and more are expected to follow.
Taiwan’s navy also conducted drills last week. President Tsai Ing-Wen watched the exercises aboard one of Taiwan’s Keelung Class destroyers.
In contrast to China’s new ships, the four Keelungs date to the 1970s. Originally ordered by the Shah of Iran, they were taken into the United States Navy after the Iranian Revolution where they were known informally as the Ayatollah Class. They were sold to Taiwan in 2001.