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China sends warships, fighter jets as Taiwanese prez returns from US

Last updated on: April 09, 2023 00:04 IST

China on Saturday began military exercises around Taiwan to test the capabilities of its forces to 'seize control of the sea, air and information', days after a meeting between the United States House Speaker and the President of the self-ruled island in defiance of repeated threats by Beijing.

IMAGE: A Chinese warship sails during a military drill near Fuzhou, Fujian Province, near the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands that are close to the Chinese coast, on April 8, 2023. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to reunify the self-ruled island with the mainland.


The Chinese military announced the start of three-day combat readiness patrols, asserting that it is testing the capabilities of its forces to seize control of the sea, air, and information.

The multi-day exercises coincided with the return of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to Taipei after her high-profile visit to the US earlier this week when she met US House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, a move denounced by Beijing.

China on Friday slapped sanctions on two American organisations that hosted Tsai besides Asia-based groups -- The Prospect Foundation and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats -- for their involvement in promoting Taiwan's independence.

China views any official exchanges between foreign governments and Taiwan as an infringement on Beijing's claims of sovereignty over the island.

The aggressive exercises were launched after French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his high-profile visit to China on Friday, during which he held wide-range talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, prodding him to use his friendship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to end the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Tsai's predecessor and pro-Beijing politician, Ma Ying-jeou, also returned to Taiwan on Friday, ending a 12-day trip to the Chinese mainland, where he sought to promote the one-China framework as the basis for improving cross-strait ties and holding talks.

The Chinese military's patrol and exercises are taking place in the maritime areas and airspace of the Taiwan Strait, off the northern and southern coasts of the island, and to the island's east, said Shi Yi, a spokesperson for Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking 'Taiwan independence' and external forces and against their provocative activities, Shi said, adding the operations are necessary for safeguarding China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Video and images published by the state media showed that the exercise included a long-range rocket unit from the Eastern Theatre Command, destroyers, frigates, missile boats, fighter jets, bombers and electronic warfare planes.

The troops are conducting patrols surrounding and approaching the island to encircle it, according to state broadcaster CCTV, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

Taiwan's defence ministry said 42 sorties from PLA warplanes were detected, 29 of which crossed the median line an unofficial dividing line in the Taiwan Strait entering the island's southwest air defence identification zone.

It said that a total of eight warships were detected, the ministry said, adding the island's forces closely monitored and responded.

Hours before the PLA's announcement, the maritime safety administration in the south-eastern province of Fujian, just across the strait from Taiwan, announced live-fire military drills at two areas off its coast over several days.

The notice said drills would be held between 8 am and noon on Saturday off the coast of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian.

It would be repeated at the same time on Tuesday, Thursday, and the following Saturday, as well as on April 17 and April 20, the Post report said.

In August last year, the Chinese military held similar drills around Taiwan and fired missiles over the self-ruled island when McCarthy's predecessor, Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

K J M Varma
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