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China continues second day of military drills around Taiwan

April 9, 2023

Military drills involving Chinese forces are continuing for a second day, with air force sorties. The move comes right after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned from her visit to the US.

A PLA boat in the Taiwan Strait.
China has increased military drills around Taiwan.Image: GREG BAKER/AFP

China continued military drills around Taiwan for a second day on Sunday as the US said it was keeping an eye on events. 

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said it had detected nine Chinese warships and 58 aircraft around the island, until 12 pm local time (0400 GMT). The ministry said that along with the warships, there was a mix of fighter jets and bombers.

"Regarding the movements of the Chinese communists' Rocket Force, the nation's military also has a close grasp through the joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system, and air defense forces remain on high alert," the ministry said. 

The operation is known as "Joint Sword" and will run until Monday, the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said. 

A report from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said, "the task force will simultaneously organize patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture." 

Taiwan leader's US trip raises tensions with China

Taiwan, US react

China launched large-scale military exercises around the island on Saturday, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned from an official visit to the United States despite Beijing’s warning against it. 

She met the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.  

Tsai denounced the drills and pledged to work with "the US and other like-minded countries" in the face of "continued authoritarian expansionism."

A US State Department spokesperson said Washington had "consistently urged restraint and no change to the status quo," but noted it had ample resources to fulfil its security commitments in Asia. 

The activities on Saturday had wrapped up by sunset, a source told Reuters news agency. However, Taipei said the activities had resumed on Sunday as fighter aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait. 

Last August, after former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, China had conducted drills and fired missiles into the water close to Taiwan. 

Washington does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but has a commitment to help the island protect itself. It remains a volatile issue between China and the US. 

Increase in military drills

For the past three years, China has been flying regular missions around Taiwan, though not in its territorial airspace or over the island itself. 

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said early on Sunday that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted 71 Chinese air force aircraft and nine navy vessels around Taiwan. 

Exercises on Monday are expected to include live-fire drills off the rocky coast of China's Fujian province, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Taiwan's Matsu Islands and 186 km (115 miles) from Taipei. 

"These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking 'Taiwan independence' and external forces and against their provocative activities," said Shi Yin, a PLA spokesman. 

Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council released footage late on Saturday showing one of its ships shadowing a Chinese warship. 

"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," a Coast Guard officer says by radio to the Chinese ship. 

Civilian flights around Taiwan, including to Kinmen and Matsu, two groups of Taiwan-controlled islands right next to the Chinese coast, have continued as normal.

Macron calls for European autonomy to tackle Taiwan issue 

French President Emmanuel Macron told news site POLITICO Europe in an interview published Sunday that Europe should not be a "follower" of either the US or China on Taiwan, saying the bloc risks entanglement in "crises that aren't ours."

"The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction," Macron said.

The French leader also emphasized European "strategic autonomy," saying it was important to have a coherent strategy to tackle issues of common interest with allies and partners.

rm, tg/kb (AFP, Reuters)