China to launch military drills

Sunday, Apr 09, 2023

BEIJING: China launched military drills around Taiwan on Saturday, in what it called a “stern warning” to the self-ruled island´s government following a meeting between its president and the US House speaker.

Dubbed “United Sharp Sword”, the three-day operation -- which state media said includes rehearsing an encirclement of Taiwan -- will run until Monday, the People´s Liberation Army´s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen immediately denounced the drills, pledging to work with “the US and other like-minded countries” in the face of “continued authoritarian expansionism”.

China´s war games would send planes, ships and personnel into “the maritime areas and air space of the Taiwan Strait, off the northern and southern coasts of the island, and to the island´s east”, said Shi Yin, a PLA spokesman.

Exercises on Monday will include live-fire drills off the coast of China´s Fujian province, which faces Taiwan, the local maritime authority said. The manoeuvres come after a meeting between Tsai and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

China views democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to seize it one day, by force if necessary. “These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking ´Taiwan independence´ and external forces and against their provocative activities,” the PLA´s Shi said. “The operations are necessary for safeguarding China´s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Taiwan´s defence ministry said that by 4 pm (0800 GMT) on Saturday nine Chinese warships and 71 military aircraft had been detected around the island.

McCarthy, who is second in line to the US presidency, had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself. Tsai returned to Taiwan on Friday after visiting her island´s dwindling band of official diplomatic allies in Latin America, with two US stopovers that included meetings with McCarthy and other lawmakers.