Taiwan’s military said it is preparing for Chinese military operations around the island in the coming days as an expected saber-rattling response to the U.S. visit by Taiwan Vice President William Lai, the front-runner ahead of next year’s presidential vote.
The Taiwan Defense Ministry posted a notice on social media recently stating that China has announced plans for “targeted exercises.” The notice stated that Taiwanese forces will closely monitor the situation around the Taiwan Strait.
“In recent years, the [Defense Ministry] has reported PLA aircraft and vessels intruding upon the areas around the Taiwan Strait, undermining peace and stability in the region,” the ministry said Aug. 11.
In addition to the exercises, “Cognitive warfare tactics also have been deployed to influence the public,” the statement said, spreading misinformation to complement the military threat.
The Taiwanese public was urged to verify all information with reliable sources “to prevent the spread of malicious misinformation,” the statement said.
Last week, White House spokesman John Kirby was asked about increasing Chinese military activities around Taiwan. On Thursday, 33 PLA aircraft and six warships were spotted around the island.
“There’s no reason to escalate. There’s no reason to increase tensions around the strait and around Taiwan,” Mr. Kirby told VOA, adding that there had been no change in U.S. policy to justify Chinese military action
“There’s no reason for the PRC to overreact or to be more bellicose and more and more aggressive,” Mr. Kirby said. “All that does is increase tensions. All that does is increase the possibility for miscalculation, and then that could lead to somebody getting hurt. And nobody wants to see that.”
So far there are few signs of large-scale Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. The official PLA website listed no exercises near Taiwan, and the most recent entry referred to “strategic drills” with Russian forces in late July.
The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, which is located along the coast of China opposite Taiwan, issued a video on Weibo, the state-controlled social media platform, showing an artillery unit in the theater conducting “precision fire strike training to further improve the ability of officers and soldiers to win on the battlefield.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Eastern Theater Command in July and told assembled military leaders the world has entered a new period of “turbulence and transformation” and that China’s security is facing rising instability and uncertainty. Mr. Xi also called for beefing up war and combat planning, strengthening joint operations and stepping up training under real combat conditions.
The Taiwan Defense Ministry said on Twitter Monday that six PLA aircraft and six naval vessels were detected around Taiwan and are being monitored by Taiwanese warplanes, warships and land-based missile systems.
Normally, when Beijing seeks to send a political signal, 30 or more warplanes and more than a dozen warships are dispatched around Taiwan.
China has been ramping up military pressure on Taiwan since the August 2021 visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S. official visit in a quarter-century. After the visit, the PLA conducted what military officials said was the largest war games in years, including missile firings that landed in waters near Japan.
Taiwanese Vice President William Lai said in New York Monday that the island democracy would not back down in the face of threats from Beijing. China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the stopover visit as violating understandings with the United States regarding Taiwan.
The statement said the question of Taiwan is “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations,’ and that the Biden administration “must halt support for Taiwan independence ‘separatist forces.’”
Media outlets controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party warned that Beijing would react to the visit.
The China Daily said the visit by Mr. Lai will “have grave consequences” and should lead to “strong countermeasures.”
The Global Times stated: “It is impossible for the U.S. to expect the Chinese government and people to remain silent about the U.S. breaking its promises and undermining China’s sovereignty.”