China began military exercises around Taiwan on Saturday in what it called a “stern warning” to the self-ruled island’s government following a meeting between its president and the US House speaker.
Dubbed “United Sharp Sword”, the three-day operation – which state media said included a rehearsal to encircle Taiwan – will last until Monday, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen immediately condemned the practice, pledging to work with “the US and other like-minded countries” to oppose “continued authoritarian expansionism”.
PLA spokesman Shi Yin said China’s war games would send planes, ships and personnel to “sea areas and airspace of the Taiwan Strait, the island’s northern and southern coasts and the island’s east”.
A report by state broadcaster CCTV said: “The task force will simultaneously conduct patrols and advances around Taiwan Island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture.”
The report detailed the types of weapons China was using, including “long-range rocket artillery, naval destroyers, missile boats, Air Force fighters, bombers, jammers and refuellers”.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry released a video showing soldiers loading anti-aircraft missile launchers, landing fighter jets and performing other military preparation exercises.
The footage included surveillance of China’s Shandong aircraft carrier, which sailed through waters south of Taiwan earlier this week.
The 75-second clip, which included English subtitles, ended with a caption: “We seek neither escalation nor conflict, but we remain firm, rational and serious in our response and defense of our territory and sovereignty.” Are.”
The local maritime authority said the exercises on Monday would include live-fire drills off the coast of China’s Fujian province, which faces Taiwan.
The maneuvers come after a meeting in California between Tsai and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China views democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it by force if necessary.
The PLA’s Xi said, “These operations serve as a stern warning against separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and collusion between outside forces and their provocative activities.”
“The operations are necessary to safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said eight Chinese warships and 42 fighter jets were detected around the island on Saturday.
The ministry expressed “strong condemnation of such irrational actions”, according to data collected by AFP, which included 29 jets crossing into Taiwan’s southwestern Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which has been a major threat this year. Highest number of days.
Taiwan’s ministry said China was using Tsai’s US visit “as a pretext to hold military exercises, which has seriously undermined peace, stability and security in the region”.
The exercises also follow the departure from Beijing of French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, who were in China urging Xi Jinping to help end the war in Ukraine.
‘We will never give up’
China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan last August, following a visit to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.
McCarthy, who is second in line for the US presidency, had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself.
The decision to meet in California instead was seen as a compromise that would underline support for Taiwan but avoid escalating tensions with Beijing.
There were no immediate signs on Saturday of increased military activity on the southeastern Chinese island of Pingtan, the closest point to mainland Taiwan.
A handful of cargo ships cruised through the waters near the beach, while tourists in sunglasses and baseball caps snapped selfies on platforms.
Tsai returned to Taiwan on Friday after touring her island’s dwindling band of official diplomatic aides in Latin America, with two US stops that included meetings with McCarthy and other lawmakers.
Hours before Tsai met McCarthy on Wednesday, China sent the carrier Shandong through Taiwan’s southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific.
After repeatedly warning against a Tsai-McCarthy meeting, Beijing said on Friday that “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China”.
“Taiwan’s future lies in reunification with the motherland,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular news briefing.
Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping said the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate that the Chinese military would be prepared if “provocations are stepped up” to “resolve the Taiwan issue once and for all”.
Dr James Char, research fellow at the China Program Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said the exercise underscores Beijing’s “nationalist credentials for its domestic audience and to score political points at home”.
“It would also be wrong to ignore the fact that the PLA started its exercise this time only after French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his state visit to China,” he told AFP.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)