FUZHOU, China/TAIPEI—China began three days of military exercises around Taiwan on Saturday to express anger at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as the island’s defense ministry said it would respond calmly.
The drills, announced the day after Tsai returned from the United States, had been widely expected after the Chinese communist regime condemned the meeting with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan’s government strongly objects to the CCP’s claims.
Beijing’s announcement also came just hours after the CCP hosted a visit by senior European leaders.
The Chinese military’s Eastern Theatre Command said it had started the combat readiness patrols and “Joint Sword” exercises around Taiwan, having said earlier it would be holding them in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south, and east of Taiwan “as planned.”
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it was monitoring the situation, maintaining a high degree of vigilance and would respond appropriately to defend the island’s security.
The CCP was using Tsai’s U.S. visit “as an excuse to carry out military exercises, which has seriously damaged regional peace, stability, and security”, the ministry said in a statement.
“The military will respond with a calm, rational, and serious attitude, and will stand guard and monitor in accordance with the principles of ‘not escalating nor disputes’ to defend national sovereignty and national security.”
The ministry said earlier on Saturday that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted four Chinese aircraft in Taiwan’s air defense zone, not an unusual number.
Reuters reporters in a seaside area near Fuzhou, which sits opposite the Taiwan-controlled Matsu islands, saw a Chinese warship firing shells onto a drill area on China’s coast, part of drills announced by the Chinese regime late on Friday.
Tsai will meet visiting U.S. lawmaker delegation, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, later on Saturday.
Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with the CCP but has been rebuffed. She says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
Diplomacy and Drills
The CCP had threatened unspecified retaliation if the meeting with McCarthy—second in line to succeed the U.S. president, after the vice president—were to take place. Beijing staged war games around Taiwan, including live-fire missile launches, in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
However, unlike in August, the CCP has yet to announce whether it will also stage missile drills. In the previous instance, the CCP published a map at the time it announced the drills, showing which maritime areas near Taiwan it would be firing into.
Taiwanese officials had expected a less severe reaction to the McCarthy meeting, given it took place in the United States, but they had said they could not rule out the possibility of the CCP staging more drills.
The CCP announcement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left China, where he met Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other senior leaders. Macron urged Beijing to talk sense to Russia over the war in Ukraine.
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in China this week to meet Xi, said stability in the Taiwan Strait was of paramount importance.
Xi responded by saying that expecting China to compromise on Taiwan was “wishful thinking”, according to the CCP’s reading of the meeting.
China’s defense ministry, as well as carrying the announcement of the drills around Taiwan, showed pictures on its home page of Xi meeting Macron and von der Leyen.
The Taiwan security source said the CCP’s recent efforts to charm foreign leaders were in vain after the announcement of the drills.
“Upon the announcement of drills in the strait, all those efforts have vanished overnight and become a wasted effort.”