China sent 71 warplanes near Taiwan on Saturday as the country kicked off three days of military drills and “combat readiness patrols” around the self-ruled island, just days after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen incurred Beijing’s wrath for meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

According to the Japan Times, The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, which oversees operations in the East China Sea including the Taiwan Strait, said in a short statement that the “Joint Sword” drills and combat patrols were being held in the waters and airspace to the north, south and east of Taiwan and would conclude on Monday.

“This is a serious warning against the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces’ collusion and provocation with external forces, and it is a necessary action to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Eastern Theater spokesman Senior Col. Shi Yi said.


Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said later in the day that it had detected 71 Chinese aircraft and nine naval vessels around the island as of 4 p.m. It said 45 of the warplanes had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, a division designed to keep military aircraft from both sides at a safe distance in order to prevent miscalculations from erupting into conflict.

The 71 Chinese sorties near Taiwan was one of the most in a single day since Taiwan began releasing daily tallies in 2020.

A later report from China’s state-run CCTV showed apparent footage of the drills, adding that the Chinese military would “simultaneously organize patrols and advances around Taiwan island, shaping an all-round encirclement and deterrence posture.”

Another report by the state-run Global Times also said that the army, navy, air force and rocket force were all involved in the drills. It went on to detail the type of weaponry being deployed, including “long-range rocket artilleries, naval destroyers, missile boats, air force fighters, bombers, electronic warfare aircraft and aerial tankers, as well as conventional missiles.”


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