Beijing: China on Monday ended three days of intense military drills around self-ruled Taiwan, encircling it with warships, deploying scores of fighter jets and, for the first time, simulating strikes on the island by the Shandong aircraft carrier-based war planes.
The drills were launched on April 8, a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a 10-day visit to the Central American countries of Belize and Guatemala and a high-profile stopover in the US where she met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China claims democratically-run Taiwan as a breakaway region and resents official interaction between the island and a third country, terming it as interference in its internal affairs.
Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s claims.
“The Eastern Theatre Command successfully completed all tasks of its combat readiness patrols and exercises around the Taiwan island,” Chinese official media said on Monday, adding that the command also carried out a “ground strike mission” around the island.
The Taiwanese defence ministry said on Monday that during the past 24 hours four J-15 fighter jets, which are based on the Shandong aircraft carrier, had crossed into the southeastern portion of the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
As many as 70 PLA aircraft and 11 PLA warships were spotted around Taiwan by 6am on Monday, the Taiwanese defence ministry tweeted, adding its armed forces have monitored the situation and “…tasked its aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities”.
In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry strongly criticised Tsai’s US visit and meetings, calling it “secessionist acts”. “To maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, we must firmly oppose all forms of ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist acts,” ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, according to state-controlled English news channel, CGTN, said at a media briefing.
Acts of “Taiwan independence” are incompatible with peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits “as fire and water”, Wang said.
PLA tracks US missile destroyer
Separately, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) monitored, tracked and maintained a high level of alert as the US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS Milius “trespassed” into China’s territorial waters near Meiji Reef in the South China Sea (SCS) on Monday.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea,” Tian Junli, a spokesperson for the PLA Southern Theatre Command said in a statement.
“On April 10, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law,” TJG Luka Bakic from the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.
China claims nearly the entire SCS but is locked in dispute over the ownership of islands and reefs with several maritime neighbours including Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia besides Vietnam and Taiwan