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‘Taiwan drill’ - Chinese president calls on marine corps to be combat ready and on alert

The People’s Liberation Army launched one of its new anti-tank missiles in the country’s north in a island-landing drill that military observers said was aimed at Taiwan.

A rocket brigade from the Northern Theater Command launched the live-fire test – the first for a wheeled vehicle-mounted anti-tank missile that entered service this year – from the Bohai Bay area “recently”, PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.

The report did not say which missile was fired but Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the missile could have been the HJ-10 – or Red Arrow-10 – vehicle-loaded guided missile system, which could be used against US-made M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks.

“The drill is definitely aimed at Taiwan’s M1A2 Abrams tanks,” Song said, referring to more than 100 armored fighting vehicles Taipei plans to buy from the United States.“

The PLA realised that warnings alone are useless against Taiwan’s independence-leaning forces, so they are now stepping up drills for island seizure to show that the mainland is well prepared to take back the island at any time.”

Mainland China has stepped up military drills against Taiwan in recent months, saying the exercises are needed to deter independence-leaning forces on the island.

That message was underlined on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the PLA’s amphibious troops to ensure they were combat ready and on alert, state-run China Central Television reported.

Addressing marine corps personnel in Chaozhou, Xi said amphibious troops had a great responsibility to safeguard China’s territory integrity, maritime rights, and overseas interests.

Xi’s remarks came just a few days after PLA marines and other troops in the Southern and Eastern theater commands held four days of separate large-scale exercises to simulate an invasion of an island.

The exercises coincided with Taiwan’s Double Tenth celebrations to mark the anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of China.

Beijing views the island as a breakaway province and insists it must be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary.

Andrei Chang, founder of military magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, said that under the PLA’s Taiwan reunification plan, the Southern Theater Command was responsible for attacking southern Taiwan.

“There is a clear division of labor between the Eastern and Southern theater commands in the PLA’s island-seizure drills, with the troops in the Chaozhou and Shantou area focusing on military bases in Taitung and Hualien,” Chang said.

The PLA’s Marine Corps is the only wing of the armed forces expanded during Xi’s massive military overhaul.

Beijing plans to increase the size of its marine corps from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel to protect the nation’s maritime lifelines and its growing interests overseas, military insiders told the South China Morning Post in an earlier report.

Last year, a US-based think tank, the Jamestown Foundation, estimated that the Chinese military would expand its marine corps from two brigades to eight, with a total of about 40,000 troops.

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