A combination of reports from Japan and China over the past week have indicated that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to conduct military drills supposedly in preparation for a possible assault on the Taiwanese held Pratas Islands.
The islands are also known as the Dongsha Islands.
Located 430km to the south west of Taiwan’s main island and administered by Kaohsiung City, the islands are located in a strategically important location between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines through which Chinese naval vessels could potentially pass unnoticed into the western Pacific.
Beijing has long sought to turn dubious claims of ownership over a number of atolls and ‘man-made’ islands throughout the South China Sea into internationally recognised territorial possessions, albeit much to the chagrin of nations in the region including Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Reported in Chinese media as potentially being an “exercise of unprecedented scale” the Chinese military has not officially announced any such drills.
In recent weeks a succession of U.S. aircraft and naval vessels have patrolled the area south and west of Taiwan in response to frequent forays into Taiwanese airspace by PLA aircraft.