- China has concluded a three-day exercise around Taiwan
- Chinese jets, warships train to blockade Taiwan
- A Chinese aircraft carrier is also involved in the exercise
- Taiwan says it will not stop war preparations
TAIPEI, April 10 (Reuters) – China wrapped up three days of military exercises around Taiwan on Monday, which it said tested combined military capabilities under real combat conditions and practiced precision strikes, as Beijing laid siege to its home island.
Taiwan responded to Beijing’s announcement that it would “never relax” its efforts to strengthen combat readiness and would closely monitor the movements of China’s missile forces and the Shandong aircraft carrier.
Beijing launched the exercise on Saturday after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned to Taipei following a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
China has never abandoned the use of force to bring the democratically governed island under Beijing’s control. Taiwan’s government vehemently denies China’s claims and has condemned the exercises.
The Chinese military said it had “successfully” completed the exercises and “extensively tested” the capabilities of several units under real combat conditions.
“Troops in theater are always ready to fight, can fight at any time, and can resolutely crush any form of Taiwan independence separatism and foreign interference,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.
Chinese state television said earlier on Monday that it was armed with direct missiles, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, and that warships had conducted drills to “create a multi-directional island-wide blockade situation”.
Eastern Theater Command said Shandong took part in combat patrols and showed fighter jets taking off from the carrier’s deck.
Taiwan has been monitoring Shandong since last week in the Pacific Ocean.
Taiwan’s defense ministry had detected 12 Chinese ships and 91 military aircraft around the island as of 1000 GMT on Monday, including carrier-based J-15 fighter jets flown from Shandong.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that Shandong conducted air operations in the waters off Japan’s Okinawa Islands on Sunday.
Jet fighters and helicopters landed on the carrier 120 times from Friday to Sunday, as the carrier, three other warships and a support ship came within 230 kilometers (143 miles) of Japan’s Miyako Island, the defense ministry said.
Japan is following “with great interest” China’s military exercises around Taiwan, a top government spokesman said on Monday.
Japan Given how close the southern Japanese islands are to Taiwan, Japan has long been concerned about China’s military activities in the area.
The Japanese island of Okinawa is home to a major US air force base, and last August when China held war drills to protest then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, Chinese missiles landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The European Union expressed concern on Monday that Taiwan’s status should not be changed by force, where any escalation, accident or use of force would have huge global implications.
The US has said it is closely monitoring China’s exercises, which it says undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. “Our channels of communication with China remain open and we continue to urge moderation,” a senior administration official said on Monday.
By contrast, Russia, which has declared a “no-limits” partnership with China, said on Monday it had every right to respond to repeated “provocations” against Beijing and conduct military exercises around Taiwan.
China’s military simulated precision strikes against Taiwan in a second day of exercises around the island on Sunday.
The Eastern Theater Command posted a short video on its WeChat account on Monday showing an H-6 bomber flying in the skies north of Taiwan.
“The missiles are in good condition,” an unidentified voice says, as the video shows images from the cockpit.
“Launch fire control radar, lock on target,” said another voice, showing pictures of the missile under the plane’s wing.
It shows a pilot preparing and then pressing the fire control button in what it describes as a simulated attack, although it does not show the missiles being fired.
Taiwan’s military has repeatedly said it will respond peacefully to China’s exercises and will not provoke conflict.
The Defense Ministry separately released images of mobile launchers for the Taiwanese-made Hsiung Feng anti-ship missiles on Monday.
Reuters reporters saw the Cheung Feng launchers parked near a scenic spot on Monday at Cape Maobido Park in Taiwan’s southern tip Pingtung County, with soldiers standing guard and tourists looking on and taking photos.
Normal life continued in Taiwan without panic or disruption, and civilian flights operated as normal.
“Most ordinary people are probably not afraid, and the main reason is that everyone thinks that China will definitely not start a war,” said Dong Bao-xiung, 78, a retiree and former soldier.
Taiwan’s stock market shrugged off the tension, with the benchmark index (.TWII) closing up 0.3% on Monday.
However, China’s blue-chip CSI300 index (.CSI300) fell 0.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) fell 0.4%.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher, Ann Wang and Ebrahim Harris, Pingtung, Taiwan, Liz Lee in Beijing, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, and Tim Kelly and Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Editing: Christopher Cushing, Jamie Freed, Gerry Doyle, Toby Chopra, Gareth Jones and Josie Gao
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