China’s military began drills around Taiwan on Saturday, saying it was a “serious warning” to separatist forces in an angry and widely expected response to a visit by Vice President William Lai to the United States, drawing condemnation from Taipei.
Lai, the front-runner to become Taiwan’s president at elections in January, returned from the United States on Friday, where he officially made only stopovers on his way to and from Paraguay, though he gave speeches while in the country.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, despite the strong objections of the island’s government.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, which has responsibility for the area around Taiwan, said in a brief statement it was carrying out joint naval and air combat readiness patrols around the island.
It said it was also holding joint exercises and training of naval and air forces, focusing on subjects such as ship-aircraft coordination and seizing control, to test the forces’ “actual combat capabilities”.
“This is a serious warning against Taiwan independence separatist forces colluding with external forces to provoke,” it said.
Taiwan’s defence ministry strongly condemned the drills, saying it will dispatch appropriate forces to respond and has the ability, determination, and confidence to ensure national security.
“The launch of the military exercise this time not only does not help peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but also highlights (China’s) militaristic mentality,” the ministry said in a statement.