China has initiated military exercises surrounding Taiwan in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with prominent US lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California this week.
The People’s Liberation Army declared three days of drills on Saturday, stating that they would “conduct Taiwan encirclement combat readiness, patrol and joint sharp sword exercises” in the Taiwan Strait and areas and airspace north, south and east of Taiwan until Monday.
The manoeuvres started after Tsai’s return on Friday from a ten-day journey that culminated in talks with McCarthy, the most important elected US official to meet a Taiwanese president on American soil.
According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, 71 Chinese military aircraft were identified between 6 am and 4 pm on Saturday, 45 of which crossed the unofficial Taiwan Strait median line or entered the country’s air defence identification zone.
The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese military stated that this is a serious warning against the provocations of “Taiwan independence” separatists in collusion with foreign forces, and a necessary action to defend the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It added that the drills were focused on claiming dominance in the sea, air, and information domains – control that would enable the PLA to operate at will around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory and has threatened to take with force.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said Beijing had already severely damaged regional peace, stability, and security with the drills, which occurred as Tsai and prominent US lawmakers reiterated their resolve to continue engaging in the face of Chinese hostility.
“We will continue to cooperate with the US and like-minded countries to defend the values of democracy and freedom,” Tsai told a delegation from the House foreign affairs committee.
Michael McCaul, the committee chair, pledged US training for Taiwan’s military, which is a rare public recognition of such activities.
Criticizing Beijing’s “acts of aggression against your nation,” McCaul added: “I look forward to a great future together, our two nations, one of peace and prosperity. We stand with Taiwan.”
An editorial published in the PLA Daily, the Chinese military’s newspaper, on Saturday railed against the US exchanges with Tsai, stating that “using Taiwan to contain China” is a typical tactic of US politicians who engage in political speculation.
The PLA Eastern Command said it had mobilized task forces, including long-range weapons from the army, destroyers, missile cruisers, fighter jets, bombers, electronic warfare aircraft, and long-range missile units, to “create an all-round deterrence posture.”
Although the manoeuvres increased the magnitude of Beijing’s response, Taiwanese government officials stated that it still remained well below the level of military intimidation that followed then-US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.
China has responded to the meeting between Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with military manoeuvres around Taiwan.
The Chinese army announced the drills on Saturday, stating that they would “conduct Taiwan encirclement combat readiness, patrol, and joint sharp sword exercises” until Monday. The military exercises began after Tsai returned from a 10-day visit that included talks with McCarthy.
The drills included 71 Chinese military aircraft, 45 of which entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone or crossed the unofficial Taiwan Strait median line.
The exercises were intended to claim supremacy in the sea, air, and information domains to allow China to operate around Taiwan with ease. Taiwan’s defense ministry criticized the exercises, saying that Beijing had severely damaged regional peace, stability, and security.
The US delegation reaffirmed their determination to continue engaging in the face of Chinese hostility, with the committee chair, Michael McCaul, pledging US training for Taiwan’s military. Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to take it by force.
The PLA Daily, the Chinese military’s newspaper, published an editorial railing against US exchanges with Tsai, accusing US politicians of using Taiwan to contain China.
The timing of the drills may have been influenced by political considerations. Tsai’s stopover in California coincided with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to China, while Beijing was also hosting Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, in an effort to court Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang ahead of presidential elections next January.
China previously unleashed week-long military exercises that simulated a blockade and invasion of Taiwan following Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.
In contrast, Saturday’s drills were less provocative and risky, without firing missiles over Taiwan’s airspace. Tsai’s administration handled her tour with extreme caution to avoid triggering severe punitive measures.