Ben Blanchard and Yimou Le
TAIPEI, Taiwan (Reuters) – China started a second round of drills on Taiwan Sunday. The island's Defence Ministry reported multiple air force missions and said that it was closely monitoring the movements of China’s missile forces.
China, which claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its territory, began a three-day military exercise around the island Saturday, the day following the return of Taiwan President Tsai ing-wen from a short visit to the United States.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said that Sunday's activities had continued, and the island's Military had spotted several aircraft, including Su-30 and J-11 jet fighters as well as ships.
The ministry stated that the air defence forces are on high alert and the national military has a good understanding of the Rocket Force's movements.
China's missile system is controlled by the People's Liberation Army's Rocket Force.
China held war games in Taiwan last August following a visit by Nancy Pelosi (then the U.S. House speaker), including firing missiles close to Taiwan. It has not announced similar drills for this year.
Tsai met Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in Los Angeles, last week. Beijing had warned her against the meeting.
The de facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan stated on Sunday that it was closely monitoring China's drills near Taiwan and that the United States is "confident and comfortable" with its regional capabilities and resources to maintain peace and stability.
The U.S. channels for communication with China are open, and the United States has consistently called for restraint, and that there be no change in the status quo. This was stated by a representative of the American Institute in Taiwan which acts as an embassy when formal diplomatic relations do not exist.
Washington cut diplomatic ties with Taipei and Beijing in 1979, but it is still legally bound to give the island the means to defend themselves.
China has said that Taiwan is its most sensitive and important issue with the United States. The topic is often a source of tensions.
Beijing has repeatedly rejected Tsai's calls for dialogue, claiming that she is a separatist. Tsai claims that only the people of Taiwan can decide Taiwan's future.
CHINESE FIGHTERS and WARSHIPS
China has increased its military pressure on Taiwan over the last three years. It now regularly flies missions around Taiwan but not over its territory or the island.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said early Sunday morning that it had seen 71 Chinese aircraft and nine naval vessels in the past 24 hours.
The Ministry published a map that showed around half of these aircraft, including Su-30s or J-11s, had crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait. This has been an unofficial border between the two countries for many years.
The ministry indicated on Saturday night that 71 aircraft crossed the line. However, on Sunday, the ministry clarified this number with a map showing the locations of the crossings and how many aircraft made them.
Chinese state media reported that the aircraft were armed with real weapons. Taiwanese jets are also armed with live weapons to repel Chinese incursions.
Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council (which runs the Coast Guard) posted footage late Saturday night on its YouTube page showing one of their ships shadowing a Chinese battleship. However, it did not specify a specific location.
You are seriously threatening regional stability, peace and security. Please turn around immediately and leave. We will expel you if you continue on your course," says a Coast Guard radio officer to the Chinese vessel.
Another footage showed the Coast Guard ship being accompanied by a Taiwanese Warship, the Di Hua. The Coast Guard officer describes this as a "standoff".
Civil flights to and from Taiwan, including Kinmen and Matsu (two groups of Taiwan-controlled island right next to China's coast), have continued to operate as usual.
China declared effective no-fly areas in several blocks near Taiwan, where it fired missiles.
Taiwan wants to resume exchanges with Beijing that were halted during the COVID-19 Pandemic as a gesture of goodwill. This includes allowing flights to return to many Chinese cities. However, Beijing complains Taipei has been too slow.
The People's Daily (the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party) said in a comment that people on both sides were "aspiring" to peace, cooperation, and development.
"Compatriots from both sides of the Strait share the same roots and culture. It is a family where blood flows thicker than the water. "Both benefit from peace and both win through cooperation," the statement said.