China begins three days of military drills in Taiwan Strait

PLA announces United Sharp Sword exercises amid Chinese anger over meeting between Taiwan’s President and US House Speaker.

China has announced three days of military exercises around Taiwan amid anger in Beijing over Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting in California with the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its aims, will hold “combat readiness patrols” from April 8 to 10, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said in a brief statement on Saturday.

Command spokesman Senior Colonel Shi Yi said United Sharp Sword would involve police patrol drills in the Taiwan Strait, “to the north and south of Taiwan, and in the sea and airspace to the east of Taiwan”.

Tsai met McCarthy on the return leg of a tour of the self-ruled island’s two remaining formal allies in Central America and arrived home on Friday.

Beijing had threatened retaliation even before the meeting took place. The Shandong aircraft carrier was spotted sailing through Taiwan’s southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific hours before the meeting was scheduled on Wednesday.

On Friday, Beijing announced tightened sanctions against Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, and the Ronald Reagan Library where Tsai and McCarthy met, but held back from the more overt response that followed the visit to the island last August of McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi. On that occasion China staged days of war games around Taiwan, even firing missiles across the island.

Analysts said the more muted reaction to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting could have been because it took place in the US, or because it coincided with a visit to Beijing by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Tsai Ing-wen returning home. She is smiling and surrounded by officials, She is carrying a bouquet of red and white flowers that have just been handed to her.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived back in Taiwan on Friday after travelling to Central America and stopping off in the US on the way there and the way back [Sam Yeh/AFP]

Tawian’s defence ministry said new PLA drills were a threat to regional “stability and security”

It earlier said that it had spotted three ships and 13 aircraft by 6am local time (22:00 GMT) and that “4 of the detected aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered Taiwan’s southeast ADIZ”.

A delegation of US legislators, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is in Taiwan and due to meet Tsai later on Saturday.

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