PLA conducts a drill to clear mines in the South China Sea
PLA conducts a drill to clear mines in the South China Sea

China: The South Theater Command announced on Friday that the People's Liberation Army Navy has conducted a five-day minesweeping exercise in the South China Sea.

According to a PLA statement, the mission was carried out by a minesweeping brigade consisting of Type 082-II minesweepers Hejian and Chishui.

Heijian appears to be participating in his first maritime training exercise since entering service.

The Navy has conducted minesweeping exercises for the fourth consecutive month, which will be crucial in the event of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

The statement claimed that several ships were involved in the operation testing the formation's capability for planning, communication and emergency response.

The floating and underwater mine target was successfully cleared by the Heijian and Chishui ships, it was reconquered, and the formation practiced artillery firing and equipment drops to destroy mines.

The ships also found an unidentified foreign ship engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of the area, which they warned about and drove them away.

As tensions in the Taiwan Strait escalated this month as a result of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit, China's mining capabilities are seen as critical to the country's mission.

Beijing views Taiwan as a province that should be separated and has never ruled out using force to seize power. While many nations, including the US and its allies, oppose any attempt to annex Taiwan by force, most do not recognize Taiwan as an independent state.

Taiwan commissioned new minelayers in January that can rapidly and automatically engage large numbers of weak but powerful minelayers without the need for divers.

Taiwan's Navy has committed US$33 million to build four accelerated mining vessels between 2017 and 2021 to strengthen its maritime security around the island, according to Taiwanese media.

A US naval analyst recently argued that, in the event of a conflict between the two powers, the US could adopt an aggressive but cheap strategy of mines in the Yellow Sea and Pearl River Delta to pressure China to negotiate.

Commander Victor Dueno said in a recent article for the US Naval Institute that retaliation could be seen as an economic war or deterrence if the US decided to intervene after the mainland Chinese attack on Taiwan.

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