8 April: China flexes its military muscles around Taiwan after US visit.
China has launched a series of military exercises around Taiwan in response to the island’s president meeting with the US House Speaker. Taiwan says it will defend itself peacefully and rationally.
The drills, which will last for three days, started on Saturday, a day after President Tsai Ing-wen returned from the United States. She had met with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles on Wednesday, a move that angered China.
China considers Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to reunify it. Taiwan rejects China’s claims and maintains its sovereignty and democracy.
The Chinese army said it was conducting combat readiness patrols and “Joint Sword” exercises in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan “as planned”. It said this was a serious warning to the “Taiwan independence separatist forces” and the “external forces’ collusion and provocation”.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it detected 42 Chinese fighter jets – J-10s, J-11s and J-16s, crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which usually serves as an informal boundary between the two sides. It also spotted eight Chinese ships.
The ministry said China was using Tsai’s US visit as an excuse to carry out military exercises, which had severely harmed regional peace, stability and security. It said the military would respond calmly, rationally and seriously, and would monitor the situation closely to protect national sovereignty and security.
Chinese state media released footage of the drills, showing warships and fighter jets performing maneuvers.
“According to what Chinese state media claimed was footage of the drills, warships at sea and fighter jets doing airborne refuelling were shown with rousing martial music in the background. Reuters was unable to verify the time or location of the material.
NO WIDESPREAD CONCERN
Taiwanese people are used to Chinese threats and did not seem overly worried about the drills.
China had warned of unspecified consequences if the meeting with McCarthy – who is next in line to succeed the U.S. president after the vice president – went ahead. China conducted military exercises around Taiwan, including live-fire missile tests, in August following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei.
A senior Taiwan official who is familiar with security planning in the region told Reuters that the aircraft had only briefly crossed the median line, while the ships had already turned around, unlike in August when vessels from both navies had stand-offs.
The situation was “manageable” and “as expected”, and Taiwan’s government had practiced various scenarios for its response, the person said anonymously, as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Reuters reporters in a coastal area near Fuzhou, opposite the Taiwan-controlled Matsu islands, saw a Chinese warship firing shells onto a drill area on China’s coast, part of drills announced by China late on Friday.
Tsai, hosting a lunch on Saturday with a visiting U.S. lawmaker delegation, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she looked forward to strengthening security cooperation with the United States.
“I would like to reiterate that the people of Taiwan love democracy and seek peace,” she said, without directly mentioning the drills in comments before television cameras.
Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rejected as the government views her as a separatist. She says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.”