China Kicks Off 2 Days of Military Drills Near Taiwan, USS Ronald Reagan Sails in Philippine Sea

May 23, 2024 1:08 PM - Updated: May 24, 2024 10:32 AM
People’s Liberation Army graphic of drills surrounding Taiwan

Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is now operating in the Philippine Sea as China launched two days of a military exercise encircling Taiwan on Thursday, in part “to serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy conducted bilateral operations in the South China Sea on Wednesday.

Imagery from the Pentagon shows carrier Reagan conducting a replenishment at sea with fleet oiler USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and dry cargo ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10) in the Philippine Sea on Thursday, the same day China launched its military drill Joint Sword-2024A. Reagan left Yokosuka on May 16 with cruiser USS Robert Smalls (CG-62) and destroyer USS Howard (DDG-83) to carry out its last Indo-Pacific patrol as the Forward Deployed Naval Force–Japan aircraft carrier before returning to the United States later this year.

On Thursday, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command announced that starting at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, the command conducted joint exercises in the Taiwan Strait, the northern, southern and eastern parts of Taiwan, as well as around Kinmen Island, Matsu Island, Wuqiu Island and Dongyin Island.

In a separate release, the command’s spokesperson, Snr. Col. Li Xi, stated that from Thursday to Friday, the Eastern Theater Command organized its army, navy, air force, rocket force and other forces to conduct Joint Sword-2024A around Taiwan, focusing on such subjects as joint maritime and air combat readiness patrols, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control and joint precision attacks on key targets.

“This is also a strong punishment for the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces seeking “independence” and a serious warning against interference and provocation by external forces.” Li stated in an additional release that the Eastern Theater Command continued to carry out training in sea assault, land strike, air defense and antisubmarine warfare in the sea and air areas north and south of Taiwan Island to test the actual combat capabilities of the theater troops in multidomain coordination and joint strike.

Graphic of a People’s Liberation Army Navy Type-52 guided-missile destroyer as part of a the XXX exercise. PLA Graphic

The Eastern Theater Command also released a map and posters of six key PLA weapon systems deployed in the exercise, namely J-20 and J-16 fighter aircraft, Type 052D destroyer, Type 071 amphibious transport dock, a Dongfeng series ballistic missile and PHL-16 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MRLS). A video was also released showing frigate CNS Nantong (533) taking part in the drills.

The Joint Sword exercise comes three days after the inauguration of Taiwan President Lai Ching-te, who in his inauguration speech called on China to cease its military and political threats to Taiwan and work with Taiwan toward peace across the Taiwan Strait. Lai also vowed that Taiwan would make no concessions on democracy and freedom. Lai’s speech was condemned by Beijing, with the Chinese military statements on the Joint Sword exercise clearly tying the drills to Lai’s speech.

The Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND) condemned the Joint Sword exercise in a social media post, stating that the announcement of the drills jeopardizes regional peace and stability.

“WE STAND READY with firm will and restraint. We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one. We have the confidence to safeguard our national security” stated the post. The MND also released videos on its X social media account emphasizing the Republic of China (ROC) Armed Forces’ readiness in defending Taiwan.

Meanwhile in the South China Sea on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy conducted bilateral operations in the South China Sea, stated a 7th Fleet release. The units involved were littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS-26), dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE-8) and Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803). Images released stated a replenishment at sea between Tromp and Wally Schirra was carried out.

The release stated that bilateral operation provided a valuable opportunity to improve allied interoperability and conduct complex scenarios to improve combined readiness. “We’re fortunate to work together with allies and to have them provide replenishment to us. Operating together fortifies our existing relationship with our partners from the U.S.,” said Cmdr. Yvonne van Beusekom, Commanding Officer HNLMS Tromp in the release.

During the operation, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESCRON) 15, acted as a facilitator between DESRON 7 (to which Mobile is assigned) and the Netherlands. Multilateral operations improve interoperability between allied navies and support a free and open Indo-Pacific, stated the release.

“The U.S. Navy regularly participates with allies and partners in high-end maritime exercises and operations, which have continued to grow in scale, scope and complexity, to create combined operations that enhance interoperability, boost deterrence and demonstrate shared resolve,” read the release.

Tromp is on an Indo-Pacific deployment and making its way to Hawaii to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2024 exercise scheduled June 26 to Aug. 2.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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