A Chinese military helicopter flies past tourists in the background over the Taiwan Strait, on the island of Pingtan, the closest point to Taiwan, in the southern Chinese province of Fujian.
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A Chinese 42 fighter jet briefly crossed the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday as China began drilling around Taiwan in anger at President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with the speaker of the US House of Representatives.
The three-day drill was announced the day after Tsai returned from the United States, widely expected after China condemned her Wednesday meeting with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
China views Taiwan as a democratically administered territory and has never refused to use force to bring the island back under its control. Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s claims.
Beijing’s announcement also comes just hours after a visit to China hosted by senior European leaders.
The People’s Liberation Army said it was conducting battle preparation and “Sword Connection” stations around Taiwan, while previously saying it had “targeted” them in the Taiwan Strait and north, south and east of Taiwan.
“This is a serious warning to Taiwan’s independence from separatist forces and foreign forces, and it is aggravating, and action is necessary to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese military said in a statement in the Eastern Theater.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday morning that it intercepted 42 Chinese fighters—J-10s, J-11s and J-16s—crossing the median line that is normally reserved between the two sides, along with eight Chinese ships.
China’s Tsai visited the US to “excuse military exercises that have seriously affected regional peace, stability and security,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The response of the military must be calm, rational and serious, and will guard and monitor according to the principles of “no escape or controversy” to defend the national government and national security.
China had threatened an unspecified retaliation if a meeting with McCarthy – the second in line to succeed the US president after he had won the presidency – took place. Beijing staged games around Taiwan, including live missile launches, in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.
A senior Taiwan official at the country’s national security council told Reuters that the aircraft only crossed the median line briefly when the ships had already returned, unlike in August, when ships from both navies engaged in a stand-off.
The incident was “as expected” and manageable, and Taiwan’s government has issued several statements for its response, the person said on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Reuters reporters in a coastal area near Fuzhou, opposite Taiwan’s mainland Matsu Islands, saw Chinese long shells in a drilling area off China’s coast, part of a drill announced by China late on Friday.
Tsai, hosting a lunch on Saturday with a delegation of visiting US lawyers, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she looked forward to strengthening security cooperation with the United States.
“I would like to reiterate that the people of Taiwan love democracy and ask for peace,” he said, without drilling his comments directly before television cameras.
Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as the government sees her as a separatist. He says that only the people of Taiwan will decide the future.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China, said in a comment on Saturday that the government has “the strong ability to resist any kind of independence for Taiwan secession.”
“All calculated measures taken by the Chinese government are to protect the legitimate and legal right of China’s government and national territorial integrity,” they said.
Unlike in August, the Chinese have yet to announce whether the drill will also stage missiles. When China announced the above drills, they published a map showing which coastal areas near Taiwan had been fired.
A security source said April is when China typically conducts military exercises.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at an event with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican from California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on April 5, 2013.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Taiwanese officials expected McCarthy’s reaction to McCarthy’s meeting to be less severe than it was in the United States, but they had said they could order China to move the possibility of more drilling.
China’s announcement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left China, where he met with President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders. Macron urged Beijing to talk to Russia about the war in Ukraine.
European Union President Ursula von der Leyen, also in China this week to meet Xi, said stability in the Taiwan Strait is of utmost importance.
Xi responded by saying he hoped China would settle on Taiwan “willingness to think” according to China’s official reading of the meeting.
China’s defense ministry, as well as reporting drills around Taiwan, showed pictures on its website of Xi meeting Macron and von der Leyen.
In Taiwan, a security source said China’s recent efforts to appease foreign leaders have been futile after the drill announcement.
“Drills were reported to be in the bay overnight and all efforts were wasted.”