China has responded to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent visit to the United States with a show of force, staging live-fire drills near Taiwan for a third day. Chinese fighter planes and warships carried out simulated strikes on the self-governing island over the weekend, sparking protests by Taipei. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence detected 70 Chinese military aircraft and 11 vessels around Taiwan, with 35 of the detected aircraft crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entering the territory’s air defense identification zone. The three-day operation dubbed “Joint Sword” is intended to rehearse an encirclement of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.
The drills on Monday are expected to include live-fire exercises off of China’s Fujian province, located only about 80km (50 miles) south of Taiwan’s Matsu islands. Tsai’s meeting last week with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California prompted a furious response from Beijing, which has branded the politician and her nationalist Democratic Progressive Party separatists.
Taiwan, a parliamentary democracy whose contested status stems from the outcome of the 1927-1949 Chinese civil war, is governed separately from mainland China but is officially recognised by just a handful of countries. The US does not officially recognise Taiwan but has expressed opposition to unilateral attempts to change the status quo and has for decades supported the island’s defences with weapons sales.
The US State Department said on Sunday it was monitoring the situation closely and Beijing should not turn Tsai’s visit “into something it is not or use it as a pretext to overreact”. The situation has escalated tensions between China and Taiwan, with the latter accusing China of violating its sovereignty and threatening regional peace and stability.
China has long claimed Taiwan as its own territory, and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control. The recent drills are seen as a warning to Taiwan and the US against any moves towards formal independence for the island. China has also been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with several other countries.
The US has been stepping up its support for Taiwan in recent years, with the Trump administration approving several arms sales to the island. The US has also increased its naval presence in the region, conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. However, the US has also been careful not to provoke China too much, as it seeks to maintain a delicate balance in its relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.
The situation in Taiwan is likely to remain tense in the coming weeks and months, as China continues to assert its claims over the island and the US seeks to support Taiwan without provoking China. The situation also highlights the growing geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, as China seeks to expand its influence and the US seeks to maintain its dominance.