China’s military declared Monday it is “ready to fight” after completing three days of large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese president’s trip to the U.S. last week.
According to the AP, The “combat readiness patrols” named Joint Sword were meant as a warning to self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own, China’s military said earlier.
“The theater’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and foreign interference attempts,” it said Monday.
The exercises were similar to ones conducted by China last August, when it launched missile strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan in retaliation for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, but have been smaller and less disruptive.
Military experts say the exercises serve both as intimidation and as an opportunity for Chinese troops to practice sealing off Taiwan by blocking sea and air traffic, an important strategic option the Chinese military might pursue in the event it uses military force to take Taiwan.
The Chinese actions follow President Tsai Ing-wen’s delicate mission to shore up Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic alliances in Central America and boost its U.S. support, a trip capped with a sensitive meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. A U.S. congressional delegation also met with Tsai over the weekend in Taiwan after she returned.
China responded immediately to the McCarthy meeting by imposing a travel ban and financial sanctions against those associated with Tsai’s U.S. trip and with increased military activity through the weekend.
“China wants to use any increase of diplomatic interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan as an excuse to train its military,” said Kuo Yu-jen, a defense studies expert and director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan.
Beijing says contact between foreign officials and the island’s democratic government encourages Taiwanese who want formal independence, a step China’s ruling Communist Party says would lead to war. The sides split in 1949 after a civil war, and the Communist Party says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.