China’s president Jinping examines military reform as high-level party meeting begins

China has staged a live-fire exercise aimed at improving its frontline combat capabilities as a high-level Chinese Communist Party leadership meeting to discuss an image overhaul gathers on the island that Beijing claims as its territory. China’s defense ministry said in a statement Thursday that its anti-aircraft and anti-missile drills in a region located in Taiwan’s “traditional fold” were aimed at enhancing China’s ability to “effectively and fully combat the Taiwan independence forces”.

Taiwan’s military said that it scrambled fighter jets and mobilized ships to fend off the Chinese planes. The Liberation Army Air Force has undertaken numerous drills this year on the South China Sea to improve its combat capabilities, as China contends with several powers of influence over the waterway.

A high-level meeting of China’s communist party leadership, which began Thursday and will continue through Friday, may discuss whether to step up Chinese military operations in the South China Sea, which so far have focused on bolstering China’s control over the waters, largely through joint and overlapping military projects and patrols.

At the center of the nation’s military plans are an escalating series of high-profile armed skirmishes in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Analysts say the escalating defense projects are attempts to protect China’s claims to disputed and resource-rich territories by shielding its newly flush coast guards from regular military intervention.

Beijing has also recently been upping its defenses in the Yellow Sea, less than 100 miles from China’s base at Fushun.

While Beijing regularly disputes Taiwan’s sovereignty, it has scaled up drills in the island’s traditional homeland, which it also considers a province of China.

The heightened military drills may be to bolster Beijing’s military prowess amid a heightened geopolitical competition with Washington, which has increasingly backed Taiwan’s independence during President Xi Jinping’s four-year reign as Communist Party boss.

Threats of war came to a head last month when a brief, but heated naval stand-off near Taiwan’s southern coast came amid rising threats of conflict between Beijing and the U.S.

According to a local Taiwanese government official, the confrontation involved a Chinese submarine that was trying to sneak into the waterway that separates Taiwan from China.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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