(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — China’s military declared it’s “ready to fight” after wrapping up three days of combat drills simulating a blockade to “seal off” Taiwan.
The large-scale land and sea exercises follow last week’s meeting by Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the United States.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and hasn’t ruled out taking the self-governed island by force.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said on Monday it tracked a record 91 Chinese fighter jets in the final day of the exercises, with dozens of warplanes crossing over the sensitive maritime median line of the Taiwan Strait.
The drills involved Su-30 and J-11 fighters, navy destroyers and missile speedboats, practicing to “encircle” Taiwan. China said it was simulating attacks on key targets, with the People’s Liberation Army even releasing an animation of what hitting those targets would look like.
A voice recording obtained by ABC News captures the moment of a standoff between a Taiwanese ship and Chinese ship. The Taiwanese officers are heard telling the PLA Xuzhou: “Your actions have seriously undermined the region’s peace, stability and security and deliberately provoked trouble, which have intensified security risk in the Taiwan Strait. Please leave immediately. If you insist on trespassing into our 24 nm contiguous zone, I will be forced to expel you.”
China’s Xuzhou responds, “The 24 nm contiguous zone doesn’t exist. Taiwan is an integral part of China. Those pursuing Taiwan independence are the ones undermining peace and stability across the Strait.”
China also claimed a U.S. Navy ship “illegally intruded” into waters it claims as its own, about 800 miles south of Taiwan. The USS Milius is a guided missile destroyer, it was carrying out a freedom of navigation patrol in the Spratly Islands, in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The U.S. said it was monitoring China’s actions and that it was “comfortable and confident” it has the resources and capabilities to ensure peace and stability in the region.
This round of Chinese drills is shorter than the ones held last August, following former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. At that time China staged unprecedented drills for about a week, including firing missiles over the island.
Former Taiwanese defence minister Andrew Yang told ABC News that he thought this month’s drills were actually larger in scale, because of the use of China’s Shandong aircraft carrier.
On the streets of Taipei, ABC News spoke to a range of Taiwanese who had mixed views towards the Chinese threat, but many of them said it was easier “not to think about” whether there could be an invasion.
Brian Pien, who works in IT recruitment, said, “They made it clear they’re gonna do something. We don’t know when that’s going to happen, we just hope we’re going to be safe.”
Twenty-six-year-old Becky Chen said, “I feel ever since Nancy Pelosi visited us the tension has been more intense than ever.”
J.C. Cheng, however, said the threat of China is something “us Taiwanese grow up with,” but admitted it’s something he does worry about.
Wu Rwei-Ren, associate research fellow at Academia Sinica, said “Taiwan on the surface, looks quiet and peaceful, and it seems like everything is business as usual, but in people’s conscience, something fundamentally different has occurred.”
“The economy is good. We have a vibrant democracy, we have human rights and freedom,” he went on to say, “And yet, on the other hand, we are facing probably one of the most dangerous times in history.”
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