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China Launches Three Days Of Military Drills In Taiwan Strait

A PLA Navy tugboat sails past tourists on Pingtan island, China’s nearest point to Taiwan, on Friday
AFP

China launched military drills 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 will run until Monday, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement.

It will take place in “the maritime areas and air space of the Taiwan Strait, off the northern and southern coasts of the island, and to the island’s east”, said Shi Yin, a PLA spokesman, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The exercise will also include live-fire drills on Monday off the coast of China’s Fujian province, which faces Taiwan, the local maritime authority said in a statement.

The drills come after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen angered Beijing by meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

China views democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

“These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and external forces and against their provocative activities,” the PLA’s Shi said.

“The operations are necessary for safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In the past 24 hours, three Chinese warships sailed through waters surrounding Taiwan, according to the island’s defence ministry.

The drills also follow the departure from Beijing of French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, who were in China to urge Xi Jinping to help bring about an end to the war in Ukraine.

Taiwan’s defence ministry on Saturday lashed out against Beijing’s announcement of the drills, saying they threatened regional stability.

China was using Tsai’s US visit as an “excuse to conduct military exercises, which has seriously undermined peace, stability and security in the region”, the ministry said.

Last August, China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan in its largest show of force in years, following a trip to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.

McCarthy, who is second in line to the US presidency, had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself.

The decision to meet in California instead was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for Taiwan but avoid inflaming tensions with Beijing.

There were no immediate signs of heightened military activity on Pingtan, a southwestern Chinese island that is the closest point on the mainland to Taiwan.

A handful of cargo ships cruised through the waters near the coastline, while tourists in sunglasses and baseball caps snapped selfies on the viewing platforms.

But Fujian’s provincial maritime authority has warned vessels not to enter waters near the live-fire drills on Monday.

Tsai returned to Taiwan on Friday after visiting her island’s dwindling band of official diplomatic allies in Latin America, with two US stopovers that included meetings with McCarthy and other lawmakers.

“We let the international community see that Taiwan is more united when facing pressure and threats,” she told reporters, describing her trip as a success, adding: “We will never yield to suppression”.

Hours before her meeting with McCarthy on Wednesday, China sent its Shandong aircraft carrier through Taiwan’s southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific.

Beijing said earlier Friday that “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China”, after repeatedly warning against the Tsai-McCarthy meeting.

“China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will never be divided,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing.

“The future of Taiwan lies in reunification with the motherland.”