China has carried out a second day of naval drills around Taiwan, as tensions continue to mount after President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the US last week.
The drills – which Beijing has called a “stern warning” to Taipei – have used naval and air forces to simulate the encirclement of the island.
Taiwan said dozens of Chinese jets flew sorties around the island on Sunday, while nine ships were also spotted.
The operation, dubbed “Joint Sword” by Beijing, will continue until Monday.
Taiwanese officials have been enraged by the operation, and on Saturday defence officials in Taipei accused Beijing of using Ms Tsai’s visit – where she met with US House speaker Kevin McCarthy – as an “excuse to conduct military exercises, which has seriously undermined peace, stability and security in the region”.
On Saturday one of China’s ships fired a round from its deck as it sailed near Pingtan island, China’s closest point to Taiwan, Reuters news agency reported.
Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, which runs the Coast Guard, issued video footage showing one of its ships shadowing a Chinese warship, though did not provide a location.
In the footage a sailor can be heard telling the Chinese ship through a radio: “You are seriously harming regional peace, stability and security. Please immediately turn around and leave. If you continue to proceed we will take expulsion measures.”
Other footage showed a Taiwanese warship, the Di Hua, accompanying the Coast Guard ship in what the Coast Guard officer calls a “standoff” with the Chinese vessel.
While the Chinese exercises ended by sundown on Saturday evening, defence officials in Taipei told Reuters that fighter jet sorties started again early on Sunday morning.
On Sunday, Taiwan’s defence ministry said 71 Chinese military planes and nine ships crossed the Taiwan Strait median line in the preceding 24 hours.
The line is an unofficial dividing line between Chinese and Taiwanese territory.
US state department officials have urged China not to overreact to a meeting, which took place in California, and have called for “restraint and no change to the status quo”.
A state department spokesperson said the US was “monitoring Beijing’s actions closely” and insisted the US had “sufficient resources and capabilities in the region to ensure peace and stability and to meet our national security commitments”.
The US severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing in 1979, but it is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
US President Joe Biden has said on several occasion that the US would intervene if China attacked the island, but US messaging on its exact course of action has been murky.
At Wednesday’s meeting, President Tsai thanked Speaker McCarthy for America’s “unwavering support”, saying it helped “reassure the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated and we are not alone”.
McCarthy had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself, but opted instead to hold the meeting in California to avoid inflaming tensions with China.
Chinese state media said the military drills, which are due to run until Monday, would “simultaneously organise 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 refuellers” had all been deployed by China’s military.
The status of Taiwan has been ambiguous since 1949, when the Chinese Civil War turned in favour of the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s old ruling government was forced to retreat to the island.
Taiwan has since considered itself a sovereign state, with its own constitution and leaders, but China sees it 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”.
Source : BBC