The amphibious dock landing ships Changbaishan (Hull 989, R) and Wuzhishan (Hull 987, L) attached to a landing ship flotilla with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command steam in formation in waters of the South China Sea during a three-dimensional amphibious landing operation from May 29 to June 3, 2019. Photo: eng.chinamil.com.cn

China recently conducted a joint military-civilian cross-sea transport drill in the Yellow Sea, as naval and civilian ships carried troops and armored vehicles across the sea, leading Chinese military experts to say on Thursday that China will be ready for a potential landing mission, be it on the island of Taiwan or islands in the South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and multiple civilian shipping companies recently held a four-day cross-sea exercise based on real combat scenarios, China Central Television reported on Wednesday.

Nine vessels, including amphibious landing ships of the Navy and roll-on/roll-off passenger ships of the civilian companies, took part in the drills.

They carried troops and large military vehicles and equipment, including trucks, howitzers and amphibious assault vehicles, according to the report.

Using civilian transport ships in cross-sea transport missions is significant because the number of PLA Navy’s landing ships remains limited, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China is building more amphibious landing ships, but they can’t be deployed at the moment, so making use of civilian ships can be a powerful addition to the Navy, Li said.

The troops and civilians solved problems like how to fit military vehicles into the passenger ships, providing experience, according to the CCTV report.

Li said that some civilian ships were designed for both civilian and military use with military standards, so they could easily be used in such missions with little modification.

Civilian organizations also provided logistical support, including accommodations to the troops, the report said.

The exercise was conducted to enhance the PLA’s capabilities to safeguard territorial integrity, and Li said that the Chinese military needs to be prepared for landing missions in areas such as the island of Taiwan and islands in the South China Sea.

Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times that China has been conducting similar exercises, and such exercises should be considered normal and not targeted against any country or region.

The CCTV report came at a time when the US had just approved a potential arms sale to the island of Taiwan, so this also showed that the mainland has the capability to solve the Taiwan question by force if necessary, Xu said.