China begins military drills around Taiwan after US Speaker’s visit


Taipei
CNN

China says it has begun three days of military exercises around Taiwan, in an announcement that came after the island democracy’s president met with the US House speaker despite repeated threats from Beijing.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command announced Saturday’s drills, describing them as “a serious warning against external forces from Taiwan separatist forces and a necessary measure to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Dubbed “United Sharp Sword,” the drills will “feature scheduled combat readiness patrols and exercises in and around the Taiwan Strait, in northern, southern and eastern Taiwan, and at sea and in the air,” said Senior Col. Shi Yi. The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement on Saturday.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy a day after returning from a 10-day trip to Central America and the United States.

Beijing has repeatedly warned against the trip and has previously threatened to take “strong and decisive measures” if it goes ahead. China claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan as part of its territory and, although it has never ruled it, has tried to isolate it diplomatically for decades. It did not rule out the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said it was closely monitoring the situation and would make every effort to protect national security and sovereignty.

“In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has continued to send aircraft and ships to harass the region, threatening the regional situation. It has used President Tsai’s visit and trip to the United States as an excuse to conduct military exercises that have severely damaged regional peace, stability and security,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.

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The ministry added that it would respond with a calm, rational and serious approach and not seek to escalate the conflict.

China responded in kind when then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, cordoning off the island and launching missiles at it.

Those drills marked the first time China had fired missiles at the island, and many experts considered them to represent a major escalation of China’s military threat against Taiwan.

Some of those missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the Japanese islands north of Taiwan, raising tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

August drills saw dozens of Chinese warplanes enter Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and PLA naval warships engaged in maneuvers in the waters around Taiwan.

Beijing said at the time it was simulating an air and sea “siege” of the island, but provided little concrete evidence to back up the claim.

Officials in Taiwan are said to be expecting a less severe reaction to Sai’s meeting with McCarthy since it took place on American soil.

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