Chinese fighter planes and warships simulated strikes on Taiwan on Sunday, encircling the island as part of a second day of military exercises initiated in reaction to Taiwan’s president meeting with US House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The drills drew condemnation from Taiwan and appeals for caution from Washington, which said it was “closely monitoring Beijing’s actions.” The three-
day operation, dubbed “Joint Sword,” will last through Monday and will include rehearsing an encirclement of Taiwan, according to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command.
“I’m a little worried; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” said Donald Ho, 73, who was exercising in a Taipei park on Sunday morning.
“I’m still concerned because if a war breaks out, both sides will suffer significantly,” he told AFP.
China’s war games included deploying planes, ships, and soldiers into “the maritime areas and air space” around all four sides of Taiwan, the army announced as it launched the drills, which were designed to stretch Beijing’s military powers.
According to a report on Sunday by state broadcaster CCTV, the drills “simulated joint precision strikes against key targets on Taiwan island and surrounding waters,” and soldiers “continued to maintain the situation of closely encircling the island.”
The air force also dispatched dozens of aircraft to “fly into the target airspace,” and ground forces practiced “multi-target precision strikes,” according to the report. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-
wen promptly condemned the drills, which took place after she met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy near Los Angeles last week on her way home from a visit to two friendly countries in Central America.
In the face of “continued authoritarian expansionism,” she committed to work with “the US and other like-minded countries.”
In Washington, a State Department official claimed the US had “consistently urged restraint and no change to the status quo,” while the Pentagon said it, too, was “vigilantly monitoring events.”
“There is no reason for Beijing to misrepresent this transit — which was consistent with longstanding US practice and policy — or use it as a pretext to overreact,” a Defense Department spokeswoman said on Sunday, referring to Tsai’s visit in California.
The US has been purposely unclear about whether it will militarily defend Taiwan, despite selling weapons to Taipei for decades to assist secure its self-defense. Live-
fire drills will take place off the rocky coast of China’s Fujian province on Monday, roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands and 190 kilometers from Taipei. “These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion and provocative activities of separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and external forces,” said Shi Yin, a PLA spokesman.
There were no apparent evidence of increased military movements on the northern shore of Pingtan, a Chinese island across the Taiwan Strait where live-
ammunition exercises will begin on Monday.
Lin Ren blasted the Chinese national song on repeat as he served cups of coffee from the back of his car on a roadside edge high above the ocean.
“I believe the current exercises are intended to put pressure on Taiwan,” the 29-year-old told AFP. “I believe they demonstrate to them that we have the capability… to unite.” China considers democratic, self-
governing Taiwan to be part of its territory and has threatened to annex it one day, using force if necessary. On Sunday, Taipei’s def
ense ministry reported the detection of 11 Chinese warships and 70 aircraft in the vicinity of Taiwan.
According to AFP, 45 planes breached the median line separating Taiwan and mainland China on Saturday, the most number of incursions this year.
According to the ministry, there were approximately 150 detections of Chinese ships or aircraft over the weekend, including fighter jets, drones, bombers, and transport aircraft. The island has been on high alert and has stated that its forces “will be well prepared and maintain solid combat readiness,” while avoiding “escalation of conflict.” On Sunday, an AFP writer witnessed Mirage 2000 fighter jets scrambling at the Hsinchu air force base in northern Taiwan.
According to an AFP journalist, three boats from Taiwan’s elite Amphibious Reconnaissance and Patrol Unit were also observed patrolling the Matsu Islands on Sunday.
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has continued to conduct military exerc
ises around the Taiwan Strait and has successively dispatched multiple batches of aircraft… as well as a number of ships in the area since this morning,” Taiwan’s defense ministry stated on Sunday.
The drills happened only hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left Beijing to persuade his colleague Xi Jinping to help settle the conflict in Ukraine.
Following a visit to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, China placed warships, missiles, and fighter jets surrounding Taiwan in its greatest show of force in years in August last year.
Tsai returned to Taiwan on Friday after a trip to her island’s diminishing list of formal diplomatic allies in Latin America, which included two stops in the United States and discussions with McCarthy and other politicians.