After imposing massive amounts of economic and cooperative sanctions, the Taiwanese government also approved the conducting of military exercises by their navy and air forces just off the Batanes Island's waters in the Bashi Channel. According to the Taiwanese government, this is a show of their strength and resolve to protect their fishermen. At the same time Taiwanese hawks see this as a showoff to the Philippine government that they can crush the relatively weaker and "chihuahua" Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force.
In response, Philippine president Aquino did not yield to Taiwan's show of strength, and instead let the Taiwanese have their exercises without interference or presence of nearby Philippine naval assets.
|ROCS Ma Kong (DDG-1805) shows off its RIM-66 Standard AAM|
(photo taken from Associated Press)
According to most news sources, the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) aka Taiwanese Navy deployed ROCS Ma Kong (DDG-1805), a Kidd-class destroyer (known as Kee Lung-class in Taiwan service), and the ROCS Chen De (FFG-1208), a Kang Ding-class frigate (modified Lafayette-class from France) together with their respective ship-borne helicopters, and 2 missile boats. The Coast Guard Administration deployed 4 patrol vessels, while the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) aka Taiwanese Air Force deployed a mix of Mirage 2000 and Ching Kuo F-CK-1 fighters, plus an E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
|An S-70C Seahawk helicopter taking-off from a Lafayette-class frigate during the exercises on May 16, 2013.|
(photo taken from Associated Press)
This military exercises, according to the Taiwanese Navy, was meant to assist the CGA in protecting Taiwanese fishermen. But to do this they sent their most capable warships assisted by scores of ROCAF fighter and surveillance assets. Was it really necessary to send these military assets for a fishermen protection exercise?
|ROCAF Mirage 2000-5. One reportedly crashed in another exercises last week.|
It appears that the exercise includes scenarios on detection of enemy air and naval forces, as well as search and rescue scenarios. But was it really their intended exercise scope?
MaxDefense sources say that the Taiwanese military was not really able to carry out its original intentions for the military exercises, which is to use live ammunition in a simulated attack on hostile enemy naval forces by joint naval and air assets. This is because of "strong external pressure" from a "common ally" not to do so, or face sanctions against their already struggling military ammunition support and equipment spare parts and supply line. Although no external pressure was applied, the Aquino administration also received "friendly advices" to avoid biting on any provocation from Taiwan in exchange for further support in strengthening the armed forces during President Aquino's remaining 3-year term.
|ROCS Ma Kong crew using fire fighting hoses as part of the naval drills|
(photo taken from Reuters)
Covering such attempted actions will be useless as it only shows that Taiwan does want to have to take military action against the Philippines, and it appears the Philippine government knows of the sudden change of plans by Taiwan. And these changes does and will not remove any doubt on the Taiwanese government's intentions, instead placing Taiwan as a perceived threat in any Philippine military and even economic planning in the future.
MaxDefense' opinion is that Taiwan was again over-reacting by making such provocations that further degrade the relationship between them and the Philippines. The Aquino administration's timidness on this issue is already a sign that the Philippines is not willing to make this issue more complicated that it already is but Taiwan's signals shows that Taiwan had its advantage in moral ground thrown down the gutter for its national gains without consideration of its implications to the friendly relations with a very supportive and a co-democratic neighbor.
|Philippine Navy assets are aging but plans are underway for new ships to replace them.|
Although militarily and economically weak, neighbors like Taiwan tend to forget that such actions against the Philippines will only push it further to strengthen itself, with a negative effect to Taiwan defense planners. Instead of counting on the Philippine military as an ally against a growing threat of communist Chinese aggression, now they need to consider their formerly friendly neighbor as a threat, to the joy of the Chinese communist government. With the expected rise of the Philippine economy and increases in yearly defense budget, one can only ask what the "puny and weak" Philippine military might be several years from now.
Whether all actions made by Taiwan up to now are because of selfish personal gains of Taiwanese president Ma or not, it would not matter anymore as President Ma's actions are officially Taiwan's actions.