China’s military has recently conducted three days of military drills in an attempt to encircle Taiwan. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province of China and has declared the operation a “stern warning” to the island’s government. The exercises began shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a trip to the United States.
The Taiwanese Defence Ministry reported that 42 Chinese military planes and eight ships crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, an unofficial dividing line between Chinese and Taiwanese territory. Chinese state media said the military drills would “simultaneously organise patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture”. They added that “long-range rocket artillery, naval destroyers, missile boats, air force fighters, bombers, jammers and refuellers” had all been deployed by China’s military.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state with its own constitution and leaders. However, China sees the island as a breakaway province that will eventually be brought under Beijing’s control – by force if necessary. President Xi Jinping has stated that “reunification” with Taiwan “must be fulfilled”. China often holds drills around Taiwan, but this “encirclement” is seen as a response to President Tsai meeting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday.
President Tsai said in a meeting with a US congressional delegation in Taipei that her government would continue working with the US and other democracies as the island faces “continued authoritarian expansionism” from China. House foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul stated that Washington was providing weapons to Taiwan for peace, not war.
In Taiwan’s capital Taipei, residents seemed unfazed by China’s latest manoeuvres. Jim Tsai commented that many Taiwanese have grown accustomed to it, while Michael Chuang said they seemed to like doing it, circling Taiwan like it was theirs. The three-day operation around Taiwan – dubbed “United Sharp Sword” – ran until Monday, as reported by the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command.
Taiwan’s defence ministry responded 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 Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. The exercises included the deployment of fighter jets and warships, and the firing of ballistic missiles.