China staged a second day of military maneuvers around Taiwan on Sunday in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with senior US lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in California.
The People’s Liberation Army said the units simulated precision strikes on key targets in and around Taiwan. An animated video released by the Eastern Theater Command, which is leading the exercises, showed mock-up images of missiles being launched from land, ships and aircraft. The video also depicted the capital Taipei and the country’s third largest city, Kaohsiung, bursting into flames.
According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, 70 Chinese military aircraft were seen operating in the area around the island on Sunday, 35 of which crossed the unofficial Taiwan Strait demarcation line or entered the country’s air defense identification zone.
The maneuvers, which the PLA said followed Tsai’s return late Friday from a 10-day trip, culminated in talks with McCarthy, the most senior American official selected to meet the Taiwanese president on American soil.
“This is a serious warning against provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists in collaboration with foreign powers, and a necessary step to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Beijing had “already seriously damaged regional peace, stability and security” with the military drills, which Tsai and senior US lawmakers reaffirmed their determination to continue to engage in countering Chinese hostility.
“We will continue to cooperate with the United States and like-minded countries to protect the values of democracy and freedom,” Tsai told a delegation visiting the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Saturday.
Committee chairman Michael McCaul pledged US training for Taiwan’s military — a rare public endorsement of such measures. Criticizing what he called Beijing’s “aggressive actions against your nation,” McCall added: “I look forward to a better future for both our nations, one of peace and prosperity. We stand with Taiwan.
An editorial published in the Chinese military’s PLA Daily on Saturday charged against US exchanges with Tsai: “‘Using Taiwan to control China’ is a regular tactic of US politicians engaged in political speculation.”
The PLA Eastern Command said it has assembled task forces from the military’s long-range weapons, destroyers, missile cruisers, fighter jets, bombers, electronic warfare aircraft and long-range missile units to “form an all-round deterrence posture”.
While the maneuvers raised the level of Beijing’s response, Taiwanese government officials said it had been reduced to a military threat following then-US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August last year.
After Pelosi’s departure, China unleashed a week of maneuvers that included a blockade and invasion of the country and the launch of missiles into Taiwan’s airspace — a more provocative and dangerous element of war games that was absent from Saturday’s drills.
Fearing a repeat of that episode, Tsai’s administration treated her tour — two trips through the United States that bookended visits to diplomatic allies in Central America — with extreme caution. The meeting with McCarthy in California was arranged as an alternative to a meeting in Taiwan, which Taipei worried might have triggered more severe punitive measures.
Beijing’s training schedule may have been influenced by political considerations. Sai’s stop in California coincided with a visit to China by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, while Beijing sought to pit Sai’s predecessor Ma Ying-jeou against Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang ahead of presidential elections next January.
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