China Warns Against Taiwan Independence As It Ends Military Drill

Customers dine in Beijing near a giant screen broadcasting footage of Chinese aircraft taking part in exercises around Taiwan on April 10, 2023 [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]

[Al Jazeera] China has warned that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and independence for Taiwan are “mutually exclusive” as it has concluded three days of live-fire drills near the self-governed island in response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent trip to the United States.

“If we want to protect peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, we must firmly oppose any form of Taiwan independence separatism,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing on Monday.

The war games simulated strikes on Taiwan and encirclement of the island, and a state media report said dozens of planes had practised an “aerial blockade”.

The exercise “comprehensively tested the integrated joint combat ability of multiple military branches under actual combat conditions”, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Command said in a statement.

Shi Yi, spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command, said China’s military will stand ready at all times to defeat any form of “Taiwan independence” and foreign interference.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it had detected 70 Chinese military aircraft and 11 vessels around Taiwan. It said its forces monitored the exercises and aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems were tasked with responding to them.

The ministry said 35 of the detected aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

Chinese fighter jets carried out “simulated strikes” near the self-governed island during the exercises, which included the Shandong aircraft carrier, the Chinese military said on Monday.

“Multiple batches of H-6K fighters carrying live ammunition … carried out multiple waves of simulated strikes on important targets on Taiwan island,” the Eastern Theater Command said.

The exercises called Joint Sword kicked off on Saturday. They were intended to rehearse an encirclement and blockade of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory and has threatened to take by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s government has condemned the exercises while the US has urged China to show restraint. Japan said it had scrambled jets in recent days as a result of the drills. In a statement on Monday, Japan’s Joint Staff said it had observed the Shandong and several other Chinese naval vessels south of Miyako island since Friday.

The vessels were spotted 230 to 430km (140 to 270 miles) south of the Japanese island, the statement said.

“We confirmed approximately 120 landings and departures on the Chinese navy’s Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Shandong, 80 times by fighter aircraft and 40 times by helicopters,” it said.

Earlier, Japan had said it was closely following the drills, which took place close to its Okinawa Islands. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait were important for the security of both Japan and the international community.

During the tense situation, the Philippine president said his country will not allow “any offensive actions” to be launched from the bases it has opened to US forces.

“We will not allow our bases to be used for any offensive actions,” President Ferdinand Marcos said on Monday, a week after Manila allowed the US military to use four additional bases in the country. “This is only aimed at helping the Philippines whenever we need help.

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