China Rattles a Much Bigger Saber as It Prepares Live-Fire Drills Around Taiwan

HONG KONG—Beijing is preparing live-fire military exercises this week in areas encircling Taiwan, a significant step up from its responses to previous crises and one that underscores China’s fast-growing combat capabilities.

China revealed the drills minutes after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei late Tuesday. They are to run from Thursday to Sunday in waters and airspace across six zones that collectively surround the democratically self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as its own.

The People’s Liberation Army said naval, aerial, strategic-missile and other forces conducted joint training on Wednesday to the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan in the run-up to the live-fire drills, which would involve the use of long-range weapons and conventional missiles.

While the designated live-fire zones mainly lie in international waters, some of them are close to Taiwan’s major ports and overlap with what Taipei claims as its territorial waters, which means the drills could disrupt civilian shipping. Depending on the launch sites and missile types, experts say the PLA projectiles could fly over Taiwan—a gesture that would be seen as a major escalation—on their way to waters east of the island.

Beijing’s response thus far hasn’t featured any direct use of force or resulted in any high-risk close encounters with other militaries—a risk that some observers had flagged ahead of Mrs. Pelosi’s trip. Even so, Western defense analysts said the show of force appears far more extensive than what China deployed during the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, the tensest military standoff between Chinese and American forces in recent decades. That showdown, which featured Chinese missile firings and landing drills, was set off after Taiwan’s president traveled to the U.S.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

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