China is sending 71 warplanes near Taiwan on Saturday as the country kicks off three days of military drills and “combat readiness patrols.” These war drills come just days after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meet with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
According to a report by the Japan Times, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, which oversees operations in the East China Sea including the Taiwan Strait, said in a short statement that the “Joint Sword” drills and combat patrols were being held in the waters and airspace to the north, south, and east of Taiwan and would conclude on Monday. “This is a serious warning against the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces’ collusion and provocation with external forces, and it is a necessary action to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Eastern Theater spokesman Senior Col. Shi Yi said.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said later in the day that it had detected 71 Chinese aircraft and nine naval vessels around the island as of 4 p.m. It said 45 of the warplanes had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, a division designed to keep military aircraft from both sides at a safe distance in order to prevent miscalculations from erupting into conflict. –Japan Times
A separate report from China’s state-run CCTV showed apparent footage of the drills, adding that the Chinese military would “simultaneously organize patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture.”
Live fire drills have also begun and will be ongoing until April 20th.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry criticized the latest military exercises as a threat to “regional peace, stability, and security,” adding that China had “used President Tsai’s visit to the United States as an excuse to conduct the military exercises.”
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force in taking the island, has denounced Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy as “collusion” between Washington and Taipei and had vowed to take “resolute and effective measures” in response. –Japan Times