21:41 GMT19 January 2021
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    The People’s Liberation Army Navy is planning to hold live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait next week, a move that could step up tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

    "Live-fire maneuvers will take place… in the Taiwan Strait on April 18, 2018, between 8 a.m. and midnight," the maritime administration agency of China's Fujian province said in a Thursday announcement.

    On Thursday, Chinese Central TV showed PRC President Xi Jinping watching PLA aircraft take off from the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the New Straits Times reports. The video also showed Xi sitting down to join PLA Navy sailors for a meal. Speaking to the sailors, Xi said the requirement to build a more powerful navy "has never been as urgent as it is today."

    The PLA Navy recently held a massive show of force off Hainan island with more than 40 ships in late March, including the Liaoning, satellite imagery showed. "Judging by the [satellite] images, it does seem that they are keen to show that the elements of the South Sea Fleet are able to routinely join up with the carrier strike group from Dalian in the north," Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said March 27.

    China Military, a newspaper linked to the People's Liberation Army, reported that 48 warships, 76 fighter aircraft, and more than 10,000 PLA Navy personnel participated in the March exercises.

    Meanwhile, the PLA Air Force has reportedly marshalled aircraft from its Eastern Command Theater to conduct drills over the Tibetan plateau to better simulate the topographical conditions for fighting against Taiwan.

    "The mainland needs to continue to prepare for a possible military clash across the Straits. A military showdown with Taiwan is becoming more probable and may take place sooner rather than later," an editorial in the Global Times published April 8 reads.


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