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China reportedly sent 42 warplanes and eight naval vessels toward Taiwan on Saturday in a retaliatory move against the Taiwanese leader’s meeting with the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in California.
Taiwan’s military detected the Chinese aircraft and ships at around 11 a.m. (local time), with 29 aircraft spotted crossing the “northern, central, southern median line of the Taiwan Strait,” the Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said the 29 aircraft “attempted coercion on us” by flying into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), an area where foreign aircraft are identified before entering a country’s territorial airspace.
“We condemn such an irrational act that has jeopardized regional security and stability,” the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Taiwan detected 13 Chinese warplanes and three vessels near the island at 6 a.m. (local time), with four aircraft spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ.
Taiwan responded by deploying aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to monitor the Chinese military’s activities.
CCP Gives ‘Serious Warning’ With Fresh Drills
This came as the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military announced Saturday that it was launching three days of combat readiness patrols and “Joint Sword” exercises around Taiwan, involving police patrols.
In a statement, Senior Colonel Shi Yi said the drills will be conducted in the Taiwan Strait and “to the northern and southern parts of Taiwan, and the airspace to the east of Taiwan as planned” from April 8 to 10.
“This is a serious warning against the Taiwan independence separatist forces colluding with external forces to provoke, and a necessary action to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Shi said.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command—the CCP’s armed wing—said the drills will focus on its “ability to seize sea control, air control, and information control under the support of the joint combat system.”
Beijing launched the drills just a day after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a 10-day visit to the United States, where she met with McCarthy.
The CCP had strongly opposed any form of official interaction and contact between U.S. and Taiwanese officials and threatened to take “resolute countermeasures” if Tsai and McCarthy met.
However, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry accused the CCP of using Tsai’s visit to the United States as an excuse to conduct military exercises that “seriously damaged regional peace, stability, and security.”
The ministry said it would respond to the drills in “a calm, rational, and serious manner” to defend its sovereignty and national security without seeking to escalate conflicts or cause disputes.
Beijing staged war games around Taiwan following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan in August 2022, and restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.
State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel had clarified that transits by high-level Taiwan authorities in the United States are not visits, but rather “private and unofficial.”
“Every Taiwan president has transited the United States. President Tsai has transited the U.S. six times since taking office in 2016. This will be her seventh transit,” Patel told reporters on March 29.
Taiwan Rejects CCP’s Ship Inspection
Beijing also launched a three-day joint patrol and inspection of ships in waters surrounding the self-governing island following Tsai’s visit to the United States, which Taiwan’s government has rejected.
China’s Fujian maritime safety authority said the operation included “on-site inspections” on direct cargo ships and construction vessels in the Taiwan Strait “to ensure the safety of vessel navigation and ensure the safe and orderly operation of key projects on water.”
The Taiwanese Maritime and Port Bureau has filed a strong protest with Beijing regarding the move, calling on shipping companies to refuse such inspection and notify Taiwanese coast guards if they require assistance.
“It will create obstacles to the normal exchanges between the two sides of the strait, and we will be forced to take corresponding measures,” the bureau said in a statement on Thursday.
“As a result, the mainland side must bear the responsibility for subsequent derivatives, which is not what the two sides like,” it added.
The CCP views Taiwan as part of its territory that must be united with China by any means necessary.
Andrew Thornebrooke and Reuters contributed to this report.
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