- 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 reports several Chinese planes nearby
TAIPEI, April 10 (Reuters) – China on Monday wrapped up three days of military drills around Taiwan, which it said tested combined military capabilities under real combat conditions and practiced precision strikes as Beijing laid siege to its home island.
Beijing announced the drills 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 given up on using 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”.
The Eastern Theater Command said the aircraft carrier Shandong also took part in combat patrols, and showed warfighters taking off from its base.
Taiwan has been monitoring Shandong since last week in the Pacific Ocean.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry released a map of the previous 24 hours of Chinese air force operations on Monday, showing four carrier-based Chinese J-15 fighter jets operating east of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean.
As of midnight Monday, the ministry said it had spotted 59 military aircraft and 11 ships around Taiwan, and that the Shandong carrier group was conducting exercises in the western Pacific.
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 southern Japanese island of Okinawa, home to a major US air force base, was hit by Chinese missiles that landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone last August when China held war drills to protest then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
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.
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,” says another voice, showing images 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 calmly 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 and Gareth Jones
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