Chinese military drills continue around Taiwan despite promise to end

·3 min read
The People’s Liberation Army has not specified whether the new drills will be held in the same 'six danger zones' encircling the island - Wang Xinchao/Xinhua
The People’s Liberation Army has not specified whether the new drills will be held in the same 'six danger zones' encircling the island - Wang Xinchao/Xinhua

China’s military continued drills around Taiwan on Monday despite the unprecedented four-day exercises having been scheduled to end on Sunday.

The drills were set to focus on anti-submarine and sea assault operations, the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command (PLA), which oversees the Taiwan Strait, said in a statement on social media platform Weibo.

The notice came after the PLA was scheduled on Sunday to end four days of intense military drills – China’s largest ever in the Taiwan Strait – conducted in retaliation for US speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week.

Ms Pelosi was the first US official of her rank to visit the self-ruled island in 25 years. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, to be retaken one day by force if necessary, and opposes other countries having top-level exchanges with Taipei.

The PLA in effect enacted a blockade around Taiwan from Thursday until Sunday, sending warships and military aircraft around the median line of the Taiwan Strait – an unofficial buffer line between China and Taiwan that is normally not crossed by military ships and jets due to the risk of accidents – and launching ballistic missiles over the island for the first time since 1996.

The PLA’s note on Monday did not specify whether the new drills would be held in the same “six danger zones”  encircling the island it had previously designated, or when the drills might end.

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that the PLA was conducting military drills in its “own waters” in an open, transparent and professional manner. Wang Wenbin, ministry spokesman, said the exercises complied with international law.

A senior Taiwan military official said during a briefing on Monday that the military would continue to closely monitor the PLA’s activities and would not retreat in response to the extended drills.

Taiwan airports were expecting operations to resume to normal on Monday, after multiple airlines cancelled flights to the island due to the training.

Other governments in the region also expressed concern over the drills.

Japan’s defence ministry said on Monday that Tokyo had scrambled fighters from Friday to Sunday in response to suspected intrusions into Japanese airspace over the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, without naming China.

The ministry said last week that five of the PLA’s ballistic missiles had landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, prompting a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had also called for “maximum restraint”.

China on Monday also kicked off month-long military drills in the Bohai Sea and continued exercises south of the Yellow Sea, near the Korean Peninsula, which are slated to last until August 15. On Sunday, the PLA had said it would conduct “regular” military drills across the median line with Taiwan.