China conducted military exercises around Taiwan on Saturday as a "stern warning" in reaction to the recent US stopover by Taiwan's Vice President, William Lai.
State media CCTV announced that the operation involved missile-armed boats and fighter jets, simulating an encirclement of Taiwan.
"The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on Saturday launched joint air and sea patrols and military exercises of the navy and air force around the island of Taiwan...meant to train the coordination of military vessels and airplanes and their ability to seize control of air and sea spaces," state media Xinhua reported, quoting Chinese military sources.
Taiwan's defense ministry said it had detected 42 Chinese aircraft and eight ships involved in drills around the island.
In response to the drills, Taiwan dispatched aircraft and ships and activated its land-based missile systems, closely tracking the situation, according to the ministry.
'China neglecting international duties'
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry strongly condemned the military drills, saying they do not "help peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait." Taipei also said that the drills showcase China's "militaristic mentality."
Taiwan's presidential office stated that the nation's military and security forces have a "complete grasp" of China's military actions, emphasizing that China is neglecting "its international duties" with its threats.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council urged China to stop using force and intimidation in favor of dialogue. The council emphasized that Taiwan's citizens are resolute in their defense and won't yield to threats.
Accusing China of trying to "shape" Taiwan's upcoming election, foreign minister Joseph Wu said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the polls are for Taiwanese "citizens to decide, not the bully next door."
Lai US visit irks China
Vice President Lai, anticipated to be the leading candidate for Taiwan's upcoming presidential elections in January, returned from the US on Friday.
Though his visit was characterized as mere stopovers en route to Paraguay, Lai made some speeches during his time in the US.
Beijing condemned the stopovers by Lai and said the politician advocates Taiwanese separatism. China labeled Lai — a Harvard-educated doctor — a separatist and a "troublemaker."
Although Lai irked China by referring to himself as a "practical worker for Taiwan independence," he has pledged to keep the status quo on his campaign trail and offered talks with Beijing.
China says to take forceful measures
The foreign ministry issued a statement saying that China was "closely following the development of the situation and will take resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The foreign ministry also called on Washington to "abide by the One-China principle... and to stop official exchanges between the US and Taiwan."
As part of its One China policy, the US acknowledges the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China. At the same time, the US informally helps Taiwan and provides aid to the island as aligned with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
China conducted its largest military drills in recent years following former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit last August. Again, in April, Chinese forces held extensive exercises around Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China sees the democratically-governed Taiwan as its territory, a stance vigorously opposed by the island's government. Beijing has previously vowed to take control of Taiwan using force if necessary.
ss/wd (Reuters, AFP, AP)