China stages more military drills near Taiwan as US political delegates visit

China’s military said it carried out more exercises near Taiwan as a delegation of US politicians visited the Chinese-claimed island and met President Tsai Ing-wen, who said her government was committed to maintaining stability.

Key points:

  • China accuses the US of encouraging the island’s independence
  • Washington says it does not support independence but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself
  • The Chinese military said it had organised multi-service joint combat-readiness patrols and combat drills around Taiwan

The five US diplomats — led by Democrat Senator Ed Markey — arrived in Taipei on an unannounced visit late on Sunday, the second high-level group to visit after that of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August, which set off several days of Chinese war games.

Ms Pelosi was the highest-level member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and her trip prompted nearly two weeks of threatening military exercises by China.

In those drills, Beijing fired missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait and sent war planes and navy ships across the waterway’s midline, which has long been a buffer between the sides that split amid civil war in 1949.

China accuses the US of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between US politicians and the island’s government.

Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island and maintains that the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully — but it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.

American and Taiwanese officials have accused China of using Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for intimidating moves, and a senior US official said recently that Washington would continue to deepen its ties with Taiwan in the coming days and weeks.

“China will take resolute and strong measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing on Monday.

“A handful of US politicians, in collusion with the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, are trying to challenge the ‘One China’ principle, which is out of their depth and doomed to failure.”

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A man in army colours looks through binoculars out to sea where there is a ship in the background.

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On Monday, the Chinese military unit responsible for the area adjacent to Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, said it had organised multi-service joint combat-readiness patrols and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.

It added the exercises were “a stern deterrent to the United States and Taiwan continuing to play political tricks and undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.

The theatre command said the exercises took place near Taiwan’s Penghu islands, which are in the Taiwan Strait and are home to a major air base, and showed close up video of the islands taken by a Chinese air force aircraft.

In a harshly worded statement, China’s Defence Ministry said its armed forces were training for war and would crush any attempt at independence by Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said 15 Chinese aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait again on Monday, adding it condemned China’s new drills and would “calmly” face them.


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