China stages ‘strike drills’ around Taiwan, citing provocation

China conducts ‘strike drills’ around Taiwan in protest against US defence support for self-ruled island.

China’s military says it has conducted “strike drills” in the sea and airspace around Taiwan in response to what it says is provocation from the democratically governed island and the United States.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, said the drills on Sunday showed Beijing was attacking regional peace and trying to cow Taiwan’s people.

China staged war games around Taiwan in August after a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and on Saturday, it condemned the US for a new defence authorisation law that boosts military assistance for Taiwan.

In a brief statement, the Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese army said it had carried out “joint combat readiness patrols and joint firepower strike drills” around Taiwan. It did not specify the exact location.

“This is a resolute response to the current escalation of collusion and provocation from the United States and Taiwan,” it said without giving details.

“Theatre forces will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it added.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said China’s actions “once again highlight its mentality of resolving differences by force and destroying regional peace and stability”.

“The Chinese Communist’s ‘military intimidation’ acts are obviously aimed at cowing our people and are not conducive to [China’s] international image,” it said, adding that Taiwan will continue to boost its military.

Taiwan has complained of repeated Chinese military activity near the island over the past three years as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty.

The US is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties. US arms sales to Taiwan are a constant irritant in Beijing’s relations with Washington.

Taiwan’s military is dwarfed by that of its huge neighbour. Its air force in particular has come under strain from having to repeatedly see off Chinese incursions near the island.

The Chinese drills coincided with newly elected mayors and county chiefs taking up their positions in Taiwan following local elections last month, in which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was trounced.

China has never renounced using force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Taiwan strongly disputes China’s claims over the island, saying only its 23 million people can decide their future.