China holds large war games in response to Taiwan VP's U.S. visit

China holds large war games in response to Taiwan VP’s U.S. visit

China has carried out war games around Taiwan involving battleships and scores of aircraft during recent days in what a Chinese military spokesman declared was a saber-rattling political message to Taipei opposing the recent U.S. visit by Taiwan Vice President William Lai.

The military exercises were expected, and People’s Liberation Army Col. Shi Yi, a spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command opposite Taiwan, said the forces practiced “seizing maritime and airspace control” north and southwest of Taiwan.

“This is a stern warning against the collusion and provocation of the Taiwan independence separatist forces and the external forces,” Col. Shi stated.

In Beijing on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stepped up criticism of Mr. Lai, leading presidential candidate of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has spoken out against China’s claims of sovereignty over the island democracy.

Beijing has openly threatened to use military force if necessary to bring Taiwan under the control of mainland China’s Communist Party-ruled government.

“Resolving the Taiwan question and achieving complete national reunification is the shared aspiration of all the Chinese people and a historical trend that cannot be changed. China must and will be reunified,” said Mr. Wang.

Col. Shi, meanwhile, said China’s recent war games around Taiwan focused on coordination between ships and aircraft, battlefield control and joint combat operations.

China’s Eastern Theater Command released a propaganda video last week showing troops and aircraft engaged in live-fire exercises simulating an invasion of Taiwan.

The video appeared on the command’s social media site under the title “Reading the Strait.”

Troops were shown in combat gear storming beaches with anti-invasion defenses similar to those currently deployed along Taiwan’s coast.

The posting stated that the PLA was “ready to fight all the time, ready to fight at any time.”

The Taiwan Defense Ministry stated on Twitter that during the war games, which occurred on Saturday and Sunday, a total of 87 PLA warplanes were spotted, including 27 that crossed the median line down the center of the Taiwan Strait.

The median-line is a marker in the fragile status quo between China and Taiwan that has kept differences between the self-governing island and the mainland from becoming a hot war.

The Taiwan Defense Ministry also issued a statement saying: “Conducting a military exercise this time under a pretext not only does not help the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but also highlights (China’s) militaristic mentality.”

During the exercises, the PLA navy dispatched nine warships that were monitored by Taiwanese intelligence systems, aircraft and navy ships, officials said.

By Monday, two PLA aircraft and six naval vessels had been detected in what the Taiwan ministry called “provocations.”

“We seek neither escalation nor conflict, but we do not bow to coercion,” the ministry said. “We have the strongest determination, capability [and] confidence to ensure security.”

The PLA warplanes included J-10, J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighters. Airborne warning and control aircraft and Y-9 troop transports also took part.

Type 054 guided-missile frigates, unidentified missile destroyers, and land-based DF-15 mobile missiles also participated, according to the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times.

PLA forces conducted “a close-in deterrence mission from multiple directions, in multiple dimensions and through an extended time period, forming a situation that the island of Taiwan is surrounded and approached from all directions,” according to the Global Times, which cited a Chinese Defense Ministry statement.

PLA destroyers and frigates practiced tracking and targeting of simulated “hostile mobile targets,” state-run China Central Television reported.

Overall, the exercises appeared less provocative than similar military operations around Taiwan launched after then-House Speak Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

Those war games were described by Chinese military officials as preparation for a “sea and air blockade” of Taiwan and included missile firings.

There were no reported missile firings for last weekend’s war games.

Col. Shi said the exercises also involved submarine search and anti-submarine operations.

“The exercise tested the capability of the theater command’s forces in coordinated operations and systematic confrontation,” he told China’s official military newspaper PLA Daily.

Mr. Lai is the leading candidate of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party in elections set for January.

He traveled to the United States for a stopover on the way to Paraguay, which has diplomatic relations with Taipei and not Beijing.

China denounced the stopover as a violation of U.S.-China diplomatic agreements.

Mr. Wang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, specifically criticized Mr. Lai on Monday for an interview the Taiwanese vice president gave to Bloomberg news urging the promotion of regional democracy.

“What [Mr. Lai] does will only bring grave harm to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Wang said. “It will only push Taiwan towards the danger of military conflict and lead our Taiwan compatriots to disaster.”

The PLA held similar war games in April around Taiwan following the visit to California by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Taiwan Work Office said in a statement Saturday: “We are willing to create wide space for peaceful reunification but will never leave [any] room for any kind of Taiwan independence secessionist activities. We will take resolute measures to penalize Taiwan independence secessionist forces and their acts and firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”