Chinese military rehearses encirclement of Taiwan

China’s military is rehearsing the encirclement of Taiwan during three days of military drills.

Beijing — which views Taiwan as a breakaway province of China — called the operation a “stern warning” to the island’s government.

The exercises began hours after President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a trip to the United States.

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said 71 Chinese military planes and nine ships crossed the Taiwan Strait median line.

The line is an unofficial dividing line between Chinese and Taiwanese territory.

One of the ships fired a round from its deck as it sailed near Pingtan island, China’s closest point to Taiwan, Reuters reported.

Chinese state media said the military drills would “simultaneously organize patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture”.

It added that “long-range rocket artillery, naval destroyers, missile boats, air force fighters, bombers, jammers and refuelers” had all been deployed by China’s military.

Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, with its own constitution and leaders.

But China sees the island as a breakaway province that will eventually be brought under Beijing’s control — by force if necessary. China’s President Xi Jinping has said “reunification” with Taiwan “must be fulfilled”.

Although China often holds drills around Taiwan, the “encirclement” is being seen as a response to Taiwan’s President Tsai meeting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday.

President Tsai said on Saturday that her government would continue working with the US and other democracies as the island faces “continued authoritarian expansionism” from China.

She made the comments in a meeting with a US congressional delegation in Taipei led by House foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul.

McCaul said Washington was working to supply weapons to Taiwan, “not for war, but for peace”.

But in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, residents seemed unperturbed by China’s latest maneuvers.

“I think many Taiwanese have gotten used to it by now, the feeling is like, here we go again!” Jim Tsai said.

Meanwhile, Michael Chuang said: “They [China] seems to like doing it, circling Taiwan like it’s theirs. I am used to it now.

“If they invade we can’t escape anyway. We’ll see what the future holds and go from there.”

China’s three-day operation around Taiwan — dubbed “United Sharp Sword” — will run until Monday, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it would respond to China’s exercises “with a calm, rational, and serious attitude” based on the principle of “not escalating conflicts, nor causing disputes to defend our national sovereignty and security”.

Last August, Beijing carried out almost a week of drills around Taiwan after Kevin McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taipei.

The exercises, China’s largest show of force in years, included the deployment of fighter jets and warships, and the firing of ballistic missiles.
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