China’s military said on Saturday it had begun three days of drills around Taiwan, a day after the island’s president Tsai Ing-wen returned from a trip to the United States.
Tsai met the US House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, while in Los Angeles in Wednesday, angering Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory.
China would hold “combat readiness patrols” and exercises in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of Taiwan “as planned”, the army’s eastern theatre command said in a brief statement on Saturday.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it would respond calmly, rationally and with a serious attitude, neither escalating conflicts nor causing disputes, after China announced plans for the drills. The ministry also said on Saturday morning that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted four Chinese aircraft in Taiwan’s air defence zone – not an unusual number.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist party, said in a commentary on Saturday that the government had “a strong ability to thwart any form of Taiwan independence secession”.
“All countermeasures taken by the Chinese government belong to China’s legitimate and legal right to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.
Tsai, who strongly rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as the government views her as a separatist. She says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
Tsai will meet a visiting US delegation of lawmakers, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, later on Saturday.
China had threatened unspecified retaliation if the meeting with McCarthy took place, having staged war games around Taiwan including live-fire missile launches in August after then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
However, unlike in August, China has yet to announce whether it will also stage missile drills. Then, China published a map at the same time as its announcement of the drills showing which maritime areas near Taiwan it would be firing into.
Taiwanese officials had expected a less severe reaction to the McCarthy meeting given it took place in the US, but nonetheless had also said they could not rule out the possibility of China staging more drills.
China’s announcement came hours after the French president, Emmanuel Macron, left China following meetings with senior leaders, including president Xi Jinping, in which Macron urged Beijing to talk sense to Russia over the war in Ukraine.
The European Union chief, Ursula von der Leyen, also in China this week to meet Xi, also said stability in the Taiwan Strait was of paramount importance.
Xi responded by saying that expecting China to compromise on Taiwan was “wishful thinking”, according to China’s official reading of the meeting.
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