China says it has started three days of military exercises around Taiwan, in an announcement that comes after the island democracy’s president met the US House Speaker in defiance of repeated threats by Beijing.
The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command announced the drills Saturday, describing them as “a serious warning against the Taiwan separatist forces’ collusion with external forces, and a necessary move to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The exercises, dubbed “United Sharp Sword,” would feature “combat ready patrols and exercises in and around the Taiwan Strait, and to the north, south and east of Taiwan and the sea and airspace as planned,” Senior Colonel Shi Yi of the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement on Saturday.
The drills come a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a 10-day visit to Central America and the United States where she met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Beijing had repeatedly warned against the trip and had previously threatened to take “strong and resolute measures” if it went ahead. China claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having ruled it, and has spent decades trying to isolate it diplomatically. It has not ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it was closely monitoring the situation and would make every effort to defend national security and sovereignty.
“In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has continued to send aircraft and ships to harass the region, which has threatened the regional situation. It even used President Tsai’s visit and transit to the United States as an excuse to conduct military exercises, which has seriously damaged regional peace, stability, and security,” Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
The ministry added it would respond with a calm, rational and serious attitude, and not seek to escalate conflict.
China reacted in a similar way when then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, launching a series of military drills that surrounded the island and firing missiles over it.
Those drills were the first time China had fired missiles over the island, and many experts saw them as representing a major escalation of China’s military intimidation against Taiwan.
Some of those missiles also fell into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Japanese islands to the north of Taiwan, a move which heightened tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.
The August exercises also involved dozens of Chinese warplanes crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone as well as PLA Navy warships in maneuvers in waters around Taiwan.
Beijing said at the time it was simulating an air and sea “blockade” of the island, but offered little solid evidence to back up the claim.
Officials in Taiwan had reportedly been expecting a less severe reaction to Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy because it took place on US soil.
Source : CNN