The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday last week announced that a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Kamov Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopter had been spotted over waters to the east of Taiwan. The announcement attracted considerable attention, because Taiwan’s east coast has always been a key area for its air and sea defenses. The incident raises the following points of interest:
First, the waters to the east of Taiwan are typically more than 1,000m deep, which makes the area suitable for submarines to conduct operations. The presence of an anti-submarine helicopter hints that PLA Navy submarines are operating to the east of Taiwan, so the military should be watchful.
Second, in the PLA’s plans, east of Taiwan would be the main area of battle with US and Japanese forces that might come to Taiwan’s aid were Beijing to invade. Taipei should not rule out that the PLA might conduct more such exercises in the sea and air to the east, which would put a lot of pressure on air defenses.
Third, since the PLA launched military exercises around Taiwan in August, Chinese authorities have unilaterally negated a tacit agreement regarding the median line of the Taiwan Strait, and have continued to use naval and airborne forces to exert relentless pressure on Taiwan, including subsequent military exercises.
The drill involving the helicopter was probably related to the two-yearly US-Japanese Keen Sword 23 naval exercises, which took place from Nov. 10 to 19 in areas that came to within nearly 100km of Taiwan. Australian, Canadian and British navy ships also participated. China’s activity can be seen as a response and challenge to the US.
Taiwan should take this incident as an opportunity to show its intelligence-sharing abilities, which would help boost its importance to regional security.
Ray Song is a doctoral student at Tamkang University’s Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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