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China mocks precision strike on Taiwan

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 9.

CChinese armed forces On April 9, a “precision strike” against Taiwan was simulated on the second day of a three-day circumnavigation military exercise. On April 5, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen held talks with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. China had promised to take “resolute countermeasures” if the meeting went ahead – the first meeting between the speaker and Taiwan’s president on US soil.

China’s state television reported that multiple troops “conducted simulated joint precision strikes on key targets on Taiwan’s main island and surrounding waters, and continued to maintain an offensive posture around the island.”Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences told the state-run Global Times It was the first time China had described the exercise in this way, the paper said, adding that “key targets” could include infrastructure such as runways and military logistics facilities.

The Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, which oversees Taiwan, announced the exercise on April 8 and said it would include “combat readiness patrols” and exercises in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China, in the waters and airspace of northern Taiwan, south and east. It described the exercise, dubbed “United Sword,” as a “serious warning against Taiwan independence forces colluding with external forces, and a necessary move to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Chinese state media said the drills involved destroyers, frigates, a fleet of rockets, fast missile boats, fighter jets, bombers and jammers, and were aimed at creating a “deterrence situation surrounding the island in all directions”.

As of 4:00 p.m. on April 9, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense stated that it had spotted 11 Chinese warships and 70 fighter jets and other warplanes in the Taiwan Strait. It said half of those planes had crossed the strait’s median line (the de facto maritime boundary). The ministry reported similar numbers on the first day of the exercise, which it said was being monitored with ships, aircraft and shore-based missile systems. It accuses China of destabilizing the region.

Earlier this week, Taiwanese and Japanese officials said China had deployed an aircraft carrier strike group about 200 miles east of Taiwan. A US carrier strike group also conducted joint exercises with Japanese forces in the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean from April 4 to 6, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.

So far, China’s drills appear to be less extensive than those it held in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. After that visit, China launched missiles into the waters around Taiwan, simulating a partial blockade of the island and suspended military, climate and other talks with the U.S. government. Still, the U.S. and its allies remain wary of any escalation or extension of the latest exercise.

They also worry about Chinese threats to board Taiwanese civilian ships. On April 5, the Maritime Safety Administration of China’s Fujian Province, located across from Taiwan, announced a three-day patrol and inspection operation in the Taiwan Strait, which it said would include boarding cargo ships and construction vessels for “on-site inspections”. Taiwan authorities said they had notified relevant shipping companies to reject such requests and informed the Taiwan Coast Guard to assist. But as of April 9, there had been no reports of any Chinese boarding Taiwanese vessels.

China has pledged to reclaim Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory, since 1949, when Nationalist troops fled to the island after the Communists won the civil war. Chinese officials have accused Tsai of promoting Taiwan’s independence by meeting Mr McCarthy. She denies that, and U.S. officials have urged China not to overreact. The United States has a legal obligation to help Taiwan defend itself. President Biden has repeatedly promised to intervene directly if China attacks the island.

China’s response to the meeting so far has been relatively restrained, seemingly reflecting its leader Xi Jinping’s desire to repair some of the damage done to his country’s economy and international relations during the three years of covid-19-induced isolation. In recent months, Mr. Xi’s diplomatic charm offensive has focused on Europe, where he hopes to encourage economic re-engagement and undermine U.S. efforts to limit China’s access to Western technology.

China announced the drills a day after French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left the country after meeting with Xi Jinping. The European pair urged Xi to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine. Mrs von der Leyen also called for stability in the Taiwan Strait. Xi said it was “wishful thinking” to expect China to compromise on Taiwan.

China’s response may also indicate that it is wary of stoking public opinion in Taiwan ahead of Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election.Chinese officials hope this will lead to a victory for the opposition Kuomintang, or Kuomintang, has recently advocated closer ties with the mainland.last of taiwan Kuomintang President Ma Ying-jeou concluded his 12-day visit to the mainland on April 7. He is the first former Taiwanese president to make such a visit.

In addition to the meeting with Tsai Ing-wen, the Chinese drills coincided with a visit to Taiwan by a bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCall. At a delegation lunch hosted by Tsai Ing-wen on April 8, Mr. McCall pledged to help provide training for Taiwan’s armed forces and expedite the delivery of American weapons. The de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan said on April 9 that the U.S. was monitoring the exercise and was “comfortable and confident” that it had sufficient resources and capabilities to ensure peace and stability in the region.

image: AFP/Taiwan Ministry of Defense

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