Taiwan’s top diplomat accuses China of simulating an invasion as Taiwanese and Chinese militaries conduct drills in Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s military has held live-fire artillery drills simulating a defence of the island as China continued the air and naval exercises it started last week in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled territory.
Taiwanese officials say Tuesday’s drills, which involved soldiers firing howitzer artillery out to sea, had long been scheduled and were not a reaction to China’s unprecedented war games.
Shortly after the hour-long Taiwanese drills ended, China’s Eastern Theater Command announced that it was continuing its exercises in the seas and airspace around Taiwan.
The Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed source, also reported that about 20 Chinese and Taiwanese navy boats were continuing to hold close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait, with some of the Chinese boats attempting to “press” into the unofficial buffer zone.
China claims democratically governed Taiwan, an island of 23 million people, as its own and has called Pelosi’s visit there last week a violation of its sovereignty and a provocation by the United States.
The joint air and sea exercises it launched in response have been its largest in the Taiwan Strait and involved test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time. They took place in six zones around the island and were scheduled to run for four days and end on Sunday.
But China’s Eastern Theater Command announced on Monday that it would extend the drills, focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations. It said maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters and a destroyer practised locating and attacking targets, including submarines, in the waters off Taiwan.
Tuesday’s drills, it said in a statement, focus on joint blockades and resupply logistics. It did not say when the extended drills will end.
In the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, foreign minister Joseph Wu accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to prepare for an invasion of the island.
“China has used the drills and its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” he told reporters, calling the war games a “gross violation” of the territory’s rights.
The drills, Wu said, have hindered one of the busiest shipping and air routes in the world and said, “China’s real intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and entire region.”
The scale and intensity of the Chinese exercises – as well as its decision to cut some communication with the US – has prompted concern in Washington, but US President Joe Biden has said he does not expect an escalation.
“I’m not worried, but I’m concerned they’re moving as much as they are. But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are,” Biden told reporters at Dover Air Force Base on Monday.
China, meanwhile, has defended its behaviour as “firm, forceful and appropriate”.
“[We] are only issuing a warning to the perpetrators,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing, promising China would “firmly smash the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of gaining independence through the US”.
“We urge the US to do some earnest reflection, and immediately correct its mistakes.”