Taiwan’s Tsai says China not being ‘responsible’ with drills

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has condemned China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait, saying Tuesday that China did not demonstrate the “responsible” behavior of a major Asian nation.

China’s three-day, large-scale drills that ended Monday were retaliation for Tsai’s meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California last week on her tour of Taiwan’s official and unofficial allies.

“As the president, I represent our country in the world, whether it’s a visit to allied countries or stopping through in the U.S. and interacting with our international friends, and not only has this been going on for years, it’s the Taiwanese people’s shared expectation,” Tsai said in a short statement. “But China used this as a pretext to start military drills, creating instability in the Taiwan Strait and region. This is not the attitude of a responsible major nation in this region.”

China sees such meetings as encouraging people who formal independence for the island, a step China’s ruling Communist Party says would lead to war. The sides split in 1949 after a civil war, and the government says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.

The People’s Liberation Army issued a threat as it concluded the exercises. “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,” the PLA’s eastern command said in a statement.

In recent years, China has been increasing its military presence in the Taiwan Strait, with warplanes being sent on a near-daily basis and military drills being conducted in the waters and skies near Taiwan.

Last August, after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, China conducted missiles strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan, while also sending warships and war planes over the median line of the Taiwan Strait. It also fired missiles over the island itself which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, in a significant escalation.

The exercises this time have focused more on air strength, with Taiwan reporting more than 200 flights by Chinese warplanes. On Monday alone, Taiwan’s defense ministry tracked 91 flights by Chinese warplanes.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, citing the PLA, said the exercises simulated sealing off the island and striking important targets in waves.

Tsai also urged the public to not believe any disinformation about Taiwan’s defenses, saying the military was fulfilling its duties and the public should encourage the forces. “Our nation’s soldiers and national security team will continue to stand fast at their posts to defend our country,” she said.

As of Tuesday morning, Taiwan’s defense ministry said eight Chinese navy vessels were still in the waters surrounding the island.


Find more AP coverage of the Asia-Pacific region at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

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