China begins second day of drills, Taiwan watching for missiles

A pilot operating an aircraft of the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) during a "Joint Sword" exercises around Taiwan, in this handout image released on April 8, 2023. Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS

China began a second day of exercises around Taiwan on Sunday. The island's defence ministry reported multiple air force sorties and said it was monitoring the movement of China's missile forces. At the same time, the United States also said it was keeping an eye on the situation.

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, began three days of military exercises around the island on Saturday, the day after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States.

While a security source told Reuters that most of Saturday's activities had concluded by sundown, Taiwan's defence ministry stated that they had resumed on Sunday and that the island's military had sighted numerous aircraft, including Su-30 and J-11 fighters, as well as ships.

"Regarding the movements of the Chinese communists' Rocket Force, the nation's military also has a close grasp through the joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system, and air defence forces remain on high alert," the ministry said.

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force commands China's land-based missile system.

In August of last year, following a visit to Taipei by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China conducted war games around Taiwan, including firing missiles into waters near the island; however, it has yet to announce similar exercises this time.

Despite Beijing's warnings, Tsai met Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, while in Los Angeles last week on what was officially described as a transit stop on her way back from Central America.

On Sunday, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan stated that the United States is closely monitoring China's exercises around Taiwan and is "comfortable and confident" in its ability to maintain peace and stability in the region.

U.S. channels of communication with China remain open. According to a representative of the American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S. has consistently urged restraint and no change to the status quo, which functions as an embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

The United States severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 in favour of China but is legally obligated to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. According to China, Taiwan is the most critical and sensitive issue in its relations with the United States and is a frequent source of tension.

Beijing views Tsai as a separatist and has rejected her repeated negotiation requests. Tsai asserts that only the Taiwanese people can determine their future.

Chinese Fighters and Warships

China has increased its military pressure against Taiwan over the past three years, conducting regular missions around Taiwan but not in its territorial airspace or over the island itself.

In the previous twenty-four hours, Taiwan's defence ministry spotted 71 Chinese air force aircraft and nine navy vessels around Taiwan.

The ministry published a map indicating that approximately fifty per cent of these aircraft, including Su-30s and J-11s, crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which has functioned as an unofficial barrier between the two sides for decades.

The ministry indicated late Saturday that all 71 aircraft had crossed the line but clarified the number on Sunday with a map showing where and by how many aircraft the crossings had occurred.

According to Chinese state media, the aircraft is equipped with live armaments. Taiwanese air force aircraft typically carry live ammunition when scrambling to repel Chinese incursions.

On Saturday night, Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council, which oversees the Coast Guard, published footage of one of its ships shadowing a Chinese warship on its YouTube channel but did not specify the location.

"You pose a grave threat to regional peace, stability, and security. Please turn around and depart immediately. If you persist, we will implement expulsion measures, "radios a Coast Guard officer to the Chinese ship.

Other footage depicted a Taiwanese warship, the Di Hua, accompanying the Coast Guard ship in what the Coast Guard officer called a "standoff" with the Chinese warship.

Nonetheless, civil flights around Taiwan, including to Kinmen and Matsu, two groups of Taiwan-controlled islands immediately adjacent to the Chinese coast, have continued as usual.

Civilian air traffic was disrupted in August due to China's declaration of effective no-fly zones in several districts near Taiwan where it fired missiles.

Taiwan has been attempting to resume exchanges halted during the COVID-19 pandemic as a gesture of benevolence to Beijing, including allowing flights to many Chinese cities. Still, Beijing has complained that Taipei is moving too slowly.

Peace, development, exchanges, and cooperation are the "common aspiration" of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, according to a commentary published in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's governing Communist Party.

"Both sides of the strait comprise people with the same ancestry and culture. The blood in their family is denser than water. Both parties gain from harmony and cooperation, "it said.

Publish : 2023-04-09 09:56:00

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