China doubled down on Thursday after it saw Taiwan host U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as People Liberation Army PLA warships and planes crossed the median line that divides the strait. Through its belligerent act, Beijing has unilaterally ensured the collapse of the decades-long tacit military agreement with Taipei.
The median line in the strait was established in 1955 as a de facto sea border between mainland China and Taiwan, with Washington pressuring both sides to abide by an unspoken agreement not to cross it. Neither side breached the median line until China said last September that there was no median line in the Taiwan Strait. The last two days have changed it all. Over 22 aircraft crossed the median line Wednesday, with Chinese warships following suit. Around 10 Chinese navy ships crossed the median line and remained in the area from Wednesday night to midday on Thursday.
The PLA had conducted numerous drills around the Strait before, but this time it is different. The drills are closer to combat and according to Chinese media rehearsals for reunification. The tacit agreements between the two militaries have been broken. The PLA aims to push the boundaries in weapon systems and actual tactics, said Song Zhongping, a former Chinese military instructor, told South China Morning Post.
The PLA has taken a number of unprecedented steps of firing missiles directly over the island and sending military drones over Taiwanese airspace. The PLA acts are intended to put the Taiwanese defense forces on the back foot and reduce their time for preparation, as well as sending shock waves across the islands, according to South China Morning Post.
Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan's Naval Academy, said the missiles and rockets were part of a cognitive warfare strategy designed to strike fear and panic.
Taiwan's military forces could track these DF 15 missiles that flew over its airspace, but there was little they could do about them because of their high altitude trajectory. It is a cognitive warfare strategy to cause panic in Taiwan. Lu said that you can see the danger but you can't do anything to stop it.
Chinese tourists strolling along the island's beaches saw rockets fired from the Pingtan base. Squadrons of PLA helicopters were seen swarming over the island.
The PLA Eastern Theatre CommandPLA Eastern Theatre Command also sent more than 100 warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, on various missions during the day. This included its most advanced stealth fighter, the J- 20, and the newly introduced aerial oil tanker, the Y- 20 U.