China launches military drills around Taiwan

The exercises are a serious warning to Taipei and “external forces,” Beijing’s military says.

The Chinese military announced the launch of three days of exercises in the Taiwan Strait on Saturday. The wargames come just a day after Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen returned from the US, where she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other lawmakers.

The drills, dubbed United Sharp Sword, are “a serious warning to the Taiwan independence separatist forces and external forces’ collusion and provocation,” the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement.

On day one, Chinese forces rehearsed the encirclement of Taiwan by seizing control of the sea, air and communications, the CCTV broadcaster reported. A suppressive situation was created, in which the island was surrounded from all sides, the statement added.

The Global Times newspaper identified some of the hardware involved after viewing footage of the exercises. It included PHL-191 multiple rocket launchers, a Type 052C destroyer, Type 22 missile boats, YJ-12B land-based anti-ship missiles, J-10C fighter jets, a KJ-500 early warning aircraft, a YU-20 tanker aircraft, and DF-11 conventional ballistic missiles.

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The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said it had detected 42 Chinese aircraft and eight ships around the island on Saturday. According to the ministry, 29 of those jets crossed the median line, an unofficial border between Taiwan and the mainland, as they were “attempting coercion.”

Beijing has used Tsai’s trip to the US “as an excuse to carry out military exercises, which has seriously damaged regional peace, stability and security”, Taipei claimed.

The talks with McCarthy in California on Wednesday were the Taiwanese president’s second meeting with a US House speaker in less than a year. A visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taipei last August caused a major spike in tensions between Beijing and Washington, and saw China stage its largest-ever military drills in the Taiwan Strait.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory. The island, which has been self-governed since 1949, never officially declared independence from Beijing.

Beijing vigorously opposes Taipei’s contacts with Washington. Officially, the US is committed to the One China policy, which abides by Beijing’s position that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory. However, Washington has also sold weapons and military equipment to the island, and promised to defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an attack from the mainland.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry warned on Wednesday that the Taiwan issue is “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations.”

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