China conducts military drills as warning to Taiwan following vice president’s US visit
China has initiated extensive air and sea maneuvers around Taiwan, aiming to convey a “stern warning” to separatist factions on the island. The exercise follows the recent visit of Taiwan’s Vice President, William Lai, to the United States.
“Responding to the drills, Taiwan has criticized Beijing’s “militaristic mentality” and confirmed the deployment of combat aircraft, naval vessels, and land-based missile systems to monitor the Chinese activities”.
The Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army, responsible for the region around Taiwan, released a succinct statement on Saturday indicating the commencement of joint naval and air combat readiness patrols around the island. These exercises, which encompass ship-aircraft coordination and combat capability tests, are seen as a response to what China perceives as collaboration between “Taiwan independence” supporters and foreign influences, aimed at unsettling the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, cited a spokesperson from the Eastern Theatre Command, stating that the patrols and exercises serve to discourage provocations and the involvement of external actors in Taiwan’s affairs. According to reports from China Central Television (CCTV), the operation involves missile-equipped vessels and fighter jets, simulating strategic encirclement tactics around Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry swiftly condemned the military exercises, asserting its preparedness to counter such actions while ensuring national security. Criticizing China’s militaristic approach, the ministry expressed concerns that the drills undermine regional stability in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan reported that 42 Chinese aircraft and eight ships participated in the exercises, with 26 aircraft crossing the previously informal median line that divided the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has responded by deploying combat aircraft, land-based missile systems, and naval assets to monitor the situation closely.
The military maneuvers coincide with the return of Taiwan’s Vice President Lai, a leading contender in the upcoming presidential elections, from his visit to the United States. Analysts had anticipated China’s response, suggesting that the exercises were intended to intimidate Taiwanese voters before the upcoming elections and instill fear of potential conflict.
China’s foreign ministry had previously expressed opposition to any visits by “Taiwan independence separatists” to the United States, characterizing Vice President Lai as a “troublemaker” for his persistent advocacy of Taiwan’s independence. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, responded to the Chinese military drills by emphasizing that the decision on upcoming elections rests with Taiwan’s citizens and not neighboring bullies.
China asserts its sovereignty over Taiwan and has demonstrated its willingness to resort to force to bring the democratic island under its control. Over the years, China has escalated military activities near Taiwan in response to perceived cooperation between Taipei and Washington. The recent drills occurred shortly after a meeting between the US, Japan, and South Korea, during which the three nations denounced China’s actions in the South China Sea.
In a joint statement, US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida underscored their commitment to regional security, Indo-Pacific engagement, and shared prosperity. The leaders criticized China’s “dangerous and aggressive” conduct in the South China Sea. This military exercise echoes similar actions last year when China conducted extensive drills following a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei.