CHINA/TAIWAN: Seventy-one Chinese military planes crossed the delicate median line of the Taiwan Strait on Saturday as China started drills around Taiwan in retaliation for President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with the speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway region of China, described the operation as a “stern warning” to the island’s leadership.
The three-day drills, which were announced the day after Tsai returned from the United States, were widely anticipated after Beijing denounced her Wednesday meeting with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
Nine ships and 71 Chinese military aircraft allegedly breached the Taiwan Strait median line, the Taiwanese Defence Ministry stated. As one of the ships approached Pingtan Island, China’s closest point to Taiwan, it fired a round from its deck, as reported by the media.
As per state-run Chinese media, the military training exercises would “simultaneously organise patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-around encirclement and deterrence posture.”
The Chinese military had also sent “long-range rocket artillery, naval destroyers, missile boats, air force fighters, bombers, jammers, and refuellers,” it added.
Taiwan views itself as an independent nation with its leaders and constitution. The island, however, is viewed by China as a secessionist province that will eventually be reclaimed by Beijing—possibly by use of force. Xi Jinping, the president of China, has stated that “reunification” with Taiwan “must be fulfilled.”
President Tsai stated on Saturday that her government would continue to cooperate with the US and other democracies as the island encounters “continued authoritarian expansionism” from China.
She made the remarks during a meeting with a delegation of US lawmakers in Taipei, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee. McCaul stated that Washington is seeking to send weapons to Taiwan “not for war but for peace.”
However, people in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, appeared unconcerned by China’s most recent moves. “I think many Taiwanese have gotten used to it by now; the feeling is like, here we go again!” said Jim Tsai.
China’s three-day “United Sharp Sword” operation near Taiwan would continue through Monday, according to the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Taiwan’s defence ministry announced that it will respond to China’s exercises “calmly, rationally, and seriously,” based on the principle of “not escalating conflicts or causing disputes to defending our national sovereignty and security.”
Last year in August, Beijing conducted drills in and around Taiwan for nearly a week after Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy’s predecessor, visited Taipei.
The exercises, China’s biggest display of power in years, saw the deployment of warships and fighter jets as well as the firing of ballistic missiles.
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