China in Second Day of ‘Joint Sword’ Military Drills Encircling Taiwan
12:34 JST, April 9, 2023
BEIJING (AFP-Jiji) — China deployed dozens of fighter jets and warships around Taiwan on Sunday for a second day of large-scale military drills, in an angry show of force following a meeting between the island’s president and the U.S. House speaker.
The move sparked condemnation from Taipei and calls for restraint from Washington, which said it was “monitoring Beijing’s actions closely”.
Dubbed “Joint Sword”, the three-day operation — which includes rehearsing an encirclement of Taiwan — will run until Monday, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said.
“I am a little worried; I would be lying to you if I say that I am not,” said 73-year-old Donald Ho, who was exercising in a park on Sunday morning in Taipei, in the far north of the self-ruled island.
“I am still worried because if a war broke out both sides will suffer quite a lot,” he told AFP.
China’s war games saw planes, ships and personnel sent 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”, the army said as it launched the exercises, engineered to flex Beijing’s military muscles in front of Taiwan and the world.
A report from state broadcaster CCTV said: “The task force will simultaneously organize patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture.”
The patriotic write-up went on to detail the type of weaponry China was putting through its paces, including “long-range rocket artillery, naval destroyers, missile boats, air force fighters, bombers, jammers and refuelers”.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen immediately denounced the drills, which come after she met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.
She pledged to work with “the U.S. and other like-minded countries” in the face of “continued authoritarian expansionism”.
In Washington, a State Department spokesperson said the United States had “consistently urged restraint and no change to the status quo”, but noted it had ample resources to fulfil its security commitments in Asia.
The United States has been deliberately ambiguous on whether it would defend Taiwan militarily, although for decades it has sold weapons to Taipei to help ensure its self-defense.
Exercises on Monday will include live-fire drills off the rocky coast of China’s Fujian province, about 80 kilometers south of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands and 186 kilometers from Taipei.
“These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and external forces and against their provocative activities,” said Shi Yin, a PLA spokesman.
“The operations are necessary for safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
AFP saw no immediate signs of enhanced military maneuvers on the northern coast of Pingtan, a Chinese island across the strait from Taiwan where the live-ammunition exercises will kick off on Monday.
A smattering of tourists wandered the golden sands on Sunday morning, as fishing boats bobbed in the wharf beyond.
China views democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to take it one day, by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Sunday that as many as nine Chinese warships had been detected around the island the day before, along with over 70 aircraft.
The number of aircraft crossings into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) was the highest recorded in a single day this year, according to data collected by AFP.
“The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has continued to conduct military exercises around the Taiwan Strait and since this morning it has successively dispatched multiple batches of aircraft… as well as a number of ships in the area,” the defense ministry said on Sunday.
“The military has been closely monitoring the situation for relevant developments, and tasked aircraft, ships and ground missile systems to respond accordingly,” it added.
The drills came hours after the departure from Beijing of French President Emmanuel Macron, who was in China to urge his counterpart Xi Jinping to help bring an end to the war in Ukraine.
In August last year, China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan in its largest show of force in years following a trip to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.
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.
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