(Beijing) Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it detected a Chinese warship and 29 more fighter jets around the island on Saturday, the first day of Beijing’s military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese Communist Party “has deliberately created tension in the Taiwan Strait…which has a negative impact on the security and economic development of the international community,” the ministry said, noting that the number of ships of detected around the island at 4 p.m. local time (4 a.m. EST) was now nine, and that of fighter planes was 71.
China is carrying out a “total encirclement” exercise of the island in military maneuvers that will last until Monday, in retaliation for a meeting between the Taiwanese president and a senior US official.
“Today’s exercise focuses on the ability to take control of the sea, airspace and information…in order to create total deterrence and encirclement” of Taiwan, said Chinese state television on Saturday after the announcement by the army of these operations.
Warships, fast missile launchers, fighter planes, tankers and jammers are notably mobilized.
The maneuvers “serve as serious warnings against collusion between separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and outside forces, as well as their provocative activities,” Chinese military spokesman Shi Yi warned earlier. .
The exact location of these drills is not yet known. The narrowest part between the Chinese coast and the island is about 130 kilometers wide.
These operations, which also include “patrols”, are “necessary to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China”, justified this spokesperson.
Live-fire exercises will be held Monday in the Taiwan Strait near the coast of Fujian (East), the province facing the island, local maritime authorities also said.
These exercises, which have an “operational” dimension, are intended to demonstrate that the Chinese army will be ready “if the provocations intensify” to “settle once and for all the question of Taiwan”, indicates to AFP the military expert Song Zhongping.
These maneuvers follow the meeting Wednesday during a stopover in California between the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, and the speaker of the American House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.
Beijing had promised “firm and forceful measures” in retaliation.
China views with displeasure the rapprochement in recent years between the Taiwanese authorities and the United States which, despite the absence of official relations, provides the island with substantial military support.
For the Chinese government, these military exercises are “a necessity” after an affront to “score points politically” with the population, James Char, a Chinese army expert from the Nanyang University of Technology, told AFP. in Singapore.
However, an escalation of the same intensity as that of last summer seems a priori ruled out, according to Mr. Char who underlines that Beijing, which is trying to “warm up” its relations with Europe, has waited for the “end” of a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to launch his exercises.
In August, China launched unprecedented military maneuvers around Taiwan and fired missiles when Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who preceded McCarthy to the House roost, visited the island.
The United States recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1979 and should theoretically have no official contact with the Republic of China (Taiwan) under the “one China principle” championed by Beijing.
Tsai Ing-wen on Saturday denounced China’s “authoritarian expansionism” and assured that Taiwan “will continue to work with the United States and other countries […] to uphold the values of freedom and democracy”.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was “monitoring the situation” and instructed the military to “respond” to Chinese military activities.
In Pingtan, the closest point to Taiwan in southeast China, tourists watched the choppy waters of the sea but no notable military activity was visible.
Others casually posed in front of a giant stamp representing the Chinese coasts and Taiwan, an emblematic monument of Pingtan.