China-US tension: state media reports amphibious landing drill after US senators land on Taiwan

The Chinese military has conducted an amphibious landing exercise in waters near Taiwan amid renewed tensions between Beijing and Washington.

According to the official WeChat account of the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army, its 72nd Group Army carried out naval training that included transporting amphibious vehicles and conducting an assault landing in unspecified waters south of Fujian Province, which faces the self-ruled Taiwan island.

The social media post on Tuesday came after a US military transport aircraft landed in Taipei on Sunday, bringing US senators and vaccine doses for the coronavirus-hit island.

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As part of the exercise, wheeled amphibious armoured vehicles entered the dock of amphibious landing ships, which then sailed to a target sea area where the vehicles left the ship and steered towards a beach, according to video footage released by the command.

A separate report by state broadcaster CCTV said on Monday that during the training, the 72nd Group Army explored the tactics of emergency loading, long-distance transport and beach assault under complicated sea situations, and boosted the troops’ amphibious combat support capabilities.

In the exercise, landing ships carried several types of equipment, including tracked armoured vehicles, wheeled off-road assault vehicles and truck, according to CCTV.

Amphibious landing is an essential step for a military to seize an island such as Taiwan, which was seen by Beijing as its breakaway province. Beijing has never renounced the use of military measures to reunify Taiwan.

On Sunday, a US military transport aircraft carrying three US senators and 750,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to help combat Taiwan’s rise in infections landed in Taipei.

And on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signalled a possible resumption of trade and investment talks with Taiwan that had been stalled since the Barack Obama administration, although he did not indicate any willingness to pursue the full-scale trade pact Taipei seeks.

The Eastern Theatre Command, headquartered in Zhejiang Province, bears the major responsibility of countering any contingency occurring in Taiwan.

Chinese media reports that the PLA has stepped up its naval training over the years and that the Eastern Theatre Command has included naval warfare as a compulsory training subject since September.

Following the US senators’ visit, the Chinese defence ministry said it would defend Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan “at all costs”. It said the trip had seriously damaged the foundation of China-US ties and the stability of the Taiwan Strait, calling it “extremely irresponsible”.

“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from mainland China, the People’s Liberation Army will hit back and be determined to protect national unity and territorial integrity at all costs,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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