China's recent military drills near Taiwan were a substantive and "war-like" escalation on those conducted last August despite not including any missile launches, some analysts have said, according to media report.
The drills were launched in retaliation to Taiwan's President, Tsai Ing-wen, travelling to the US and meeting the US House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, The Guardian reported.
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as a province despite that being rejected by its government and people, declared the meeting a provocation by Taiwan "separatists", enabled by the US.
Shortly after Tsai landed in Taipei, Beijing announced the almost immediate start of three days of military drills.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese state media described them as practising encirclement of the island, and pre-invasion attacks. They carried out drills or simulated direct strikes on Taiwan from the sea, air and China's mainland, and conducted multiple incursions over the median line - the de facto border on international waters of the Taiwan Strait, The Guardian reported.
It was the largest show of force since the drills launched in response to McCarthy's predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visiting Taipei. Those exercises, which took place over eight days, included 11 missiles fired over Taiwan into the sea, and blockade-style tactics that disrupted air and sea traffic.
But some military analysts have said that this weekend's drills were more specific about China's intent to annex Taiwan, demonstrative of a pre-invasion attack, and raised the risk of miscalculation and escalation, The Guardian reported.
"[The PLA] are getting less loud and more muscular in the way they shape their signalling," said Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy in east Asia at King's College London.
"A big show of force raises the tolerance of what is normal to accept in a military sense. But specific tailored activity is indicative of clear intent and that's more troubling. These ones, smaller though they were, reflected a specific configuration that more clearly identifies steps just short of an invasion of Taiwan," Patalano added.
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