China conducts 3-day military exercises in Taiwan Strait.


China has commenced three days of military exercises around Taiwan, dubbed United Sharp Sword, amid anger in Beijing over Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy. The drills, which will involve exercises in the Taiwan Strait to the north and south of the island as well as in the sea and airspace to its east, will be held until April 10. China claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its aims. The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said in a brief statement on Saturday that it will hold “combat readiness patrols”.

“This is a serious warning to the Taiwan independence separatist forces and external forces’ collusion and provocation, and it is a necessary action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the PLA said. Tsai met McCarthy on the return leg of a tour of the self-ruled island’s two remaining formal allies in Central America and arrived home on Friday. Beijing had threatened retaliation even before the meeting took place. The Shandong aircraft carrier was spotted sailing through Taiwan’s southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific hours before the meeting was scheduled on Wednesday.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it was monitoring the situation and would respond appropriately to defend the island’s security. China was using Tsai’s US visit “as an excuse to carry out military exercises, which has seriously damaged regional peace, stability and security”, the ministry said in a statement. “The military will respond with a calm, rational and serious attitude, and will stand guard and monitor in accordance with the principles of ‘not escalating nor disputes’ to defend national sovereignty and national security.”

On Friday, Beijing announced tightened sanctions against Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, and the Ronald Reagan Library where Tsai and McCarthy met, but held back from the more overt response that followed the visit to the island last August of McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi. On that occasion China staged days of war games around Taiwan, including firing missiles across the island.

Analysts said the initial more muted reaction to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting could have been because it took place in the US, or because it coincided with a visit to Beijing by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The PLA drills began hours after Macron and von der Leyen, whose focus was the Ukraine crisis, had left.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said earlier that it had spotted three ships and 13 aircraft by 6am local time (22:00 GMT) and that “4 of the detected aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered Taiwan’s southeast ADIZ”.

A delegation of US legislators, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is in Taiwan and due to meet Tsai later on Saturday.