Jet fighters from the Taiwanese military ascend to intercept whenever PLA warplanes approach. Photo: Taiwan Defence Ministry
Jet fighters from the Taiwanese military ascend to intercept whenever PLA warplanes approach. Photo: Taiwan Defence Ministry

The People’s Liberation Army is now in the middle of a reform program to transform itself into a genuine blue water navy and an air force capable of military posturing and combat above and on the high seas.

The stated goal is to mount a swift takeover of Taiwan before the US can amass its plans and vessels to intervene.

A report published by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research has urged the Taiwanese military to formulate contingency plans centered around its “asymmetric warfare” tactics and ramp up its defense of key infrastructure and military structures, “before everything is too late.”

A file photo shows a fighter jet (left) with the Taiwanese Air Force tailing a PLA bomber near Taiwan’s air border. Photo: Handout

Since the PLA reforms and transition would take time to bear fruit, the next three to five years are Taiwan’s last opportune time to prioritize a military build-up and make arms deals from and defense cooperation pacts with de facto allies like Japan and the US.

The report contains a list of the PLA’s tactical assets that can pose the gravest threats to the island.

Excluding the Y-8 and Y-9 transportation planes that have participated in long-range exercises near Taiwan since 2015, the PLA Air Force has also flown sorties near Taiwan’s eastern airspace at least 12 times in the past 12 months.

Some of these aerial circumnavigations also involved the modernized H-6K bomber, which is capable of piercing through the Second Island Chain to menace the US territory of Guam.

The PLA Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was spotted this summer conducting anti-submarine and anti-air missions in massive war games in both the East and South China seas.

A file photo shows China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier with an accompanying fleet conducting a drill in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

Ongoing Chinese efforts to extend the range of its cruise and ballistic missiles, and to improve its satellite monitoring and guidance systems, could also threaten Japan and US forces stationed on the outlying islands of Japan as well as Guam, hampering the US’s first response to any emergency in the Taiwan Strait.

The PLA’s display of DF-21D anti-ship missiles, DF-26C ballistic missiles and CJ-10 cruise missiles in its blue-water naval exercises, as well as their extensive deployment in Fujian province across Taiwan, are all indicative of the force’s ability to launch medium to long-range strikes.

The Type 095 nuclear assault submarines, Type 096 ballistic missile submarines and China’s indigenous fifth-generation fighter the J-20 all represent a big boost to the PLA’s anti-access/area denial capabilities.

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