China’s military has “completed various tasks” around Taiwan but will conduct regular patrols, it said on Wednesday, potentially signalling an end to days of war games but also that Beijing will keep up its pressure on the island.
Furious at a visit to Taipei last week by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China had extended its largest-ever exercises around the self-ruled island it claims as its own beyond the four days originally scheduled.
Last week’s drills included launches of ballistic missiles, some of which flew over the island’s capital of Taipei, and simulated sea and air attacks in surrounding skies and waters.
In a brief statement, the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army said its joint military operations around Taiwan had “successfully completed various tasks and effectively tested the integrated combat capabilities of the troops”.
It added: “Theatre forces will keep an eye on the changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, continue to carry out training and preparation for combat, organise regular combat readiness patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said in response to China’s statement that under the premise of not relaxing combat readiness, Taipei would “fully adjust the allocation of forces based on factors such as the enemy threat”.
Earlier on Wednesday, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters that Chinese navy ships were active off both the east and west coasts of Taiwan.
As of the afternoon, the Chinese navy continued activities near the median line, an unofficial buffer in the Taiwan Strait, and Chinese fighter jets also continued to fly close to the line, the source said.
Taiwan has dispatched airplanes and ships to the area to monitor the situation, the source said, adding: “They are like flies.”
Video from state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed Chinese fighter jets scrambling and refuelling in mid-air, as well as navy ships on what it said were drills around Taiwan.
China’s military said the drills were focused on blockades and resupply logistics, “under a complex electromagnetic environment to refine joint containment and control capabilities”, according to CCTV.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said 17 Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line on Wednesday.
Andrew Hsia, deputy chairman of Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, flew to China for what his party said was a pre-arranged trip to meet Taiwanese engaged in business.
Hsia told reporters he was not going to Beijing and did not have any official meetings arranged. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it was “normal” for Kuomintang officials to visit.
However, Taiwan expressed “regret” at the trip coming amid the Chinese drills.
“At this moment, the Kuomintang still insisted on going to China, disappointing our people,” said President Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that China was using the military drills as a game plan to prepare for an invasion of the democratically governed island.