Taiwan strongly condemned military combat drills held by China on Monday, the second such drills around the democratically-governed island in less than a month.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had detected 57 Chinese aircraft and four naval vessels around Taiwan at 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, with 28 of those aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and crossing the Taiwan Strait median line.
The Taiwanese ministry said it scrambled aircraft, naval vessels, and land-based missile systems to monitor the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) activities. The PLA is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) military wing.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s presidential office issued a statement saying both Taiwan and China have the responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The office also said that China was making “groundless accusations”—a response to remarks from the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command.
The statement from the Chinese command said that the goal of the military drills was to counter what it called “provocative actions” by Taiwan and external forces. It added that forces held “joint combat readiness patrols and actual combat drills” in Taiwan’s sea and airspace, with a focus on “land strikes and sea assaults.”
A file image of USS Chung-Hoon as it sat ready to be placed in active service before its commissioning ceremony on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Sept. 18, 2004. (Lucy Pemoni/Reuters)
The PLA’s exercises around Taiwan come just days after the United States sent a warship—the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon—to transit Taiwan Strait on Jan. 5.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the move was part of its routine activity: “Chung-Hoon’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
In a statement, the CCP accused the United States of “frequently flexing muscles in the name of exercising freedom of navigation” and vowed to maintain its military readiness “to all threats and provocations.”
Taiwan has been a self-governing democracy since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, but the CCP views Taiwan as its own territory. It regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be united with mainland China by any means necessary, and CCP leadership has not ruled out the use of force to achieve this goal.
The CCP regularly uses its military to intimidate Taiwan, as seen on Christmas Day when it sent 71 planes and seven ships toward the island in its largest show of force since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan in August 2022.
AFP reported that a total of 1,727 Chinese aircraft crossed into Taiwan’s ADIZ in 2022, surpassing 960 in 2021, citing data released by Taiwan’s defense ministry.
A Navy Force helicopter under the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) takes part in military exercises in the waters around Taiwan, at an undisclosed location, on Aug. 8, 2022, in a handout picture released on Aug. 9, 2022. (Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via Reuters)
China-Taiwan War Not ‘Inevitable’
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said that tensions between the United States and Beijing can still be solved peaceably, albeit with great difficulty. He believes that the CCP can still be deterred from invading Taiwan.
“There is a risk of conflict with respect to Taiwan, but I believe that with responsible stewardship, we can ensure that this contingency never comes to pass,” Sullivan said during a Jan. 5 interview with NPR.
“It will require us following through on the commitments of the Taiwan Relations Act, which for 40 years now has said we will provide defensive articles to Taiwan. And it will require direct diplomacy with the [CCP].”
To that end, Sullivan said that maintaining the peace would require “hard work” and close “coordination with allies” to ensure that catastrophic conflict never erupted in the Indo-Pacific.
CCP leader Xi Jinping personally made veiled threats to Biden about the issue during a July teleconference, in which he suggested the United States would be damaged by any attempt to prevent China’s takeover of Taiwan.
“Playing with fire will set you on fire,” Xi told Biden. “I hope the U.S. can see this clearly.”
Sullivan reframed the issue of Biden and Xi’s contentious discussions and said that the duo’s meeting in November provided “greater stability” to the Biden-Xi relationship and underscored that the two nations could still work together on other issues like climate change.
The United States formally recognizes, but does not endorse, the CCP’s position. The U.S. does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it’s bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the arms necessary for self-defense and to prevent any unilateral changes to the status quo.
Andrew Thornebrooke and Reuters contributed to this report.
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.