Taiwan will hold live-fire military drills this week, simulating a defense of the island against a Chinese invasion, officials said Monday, as Beijing confirmed it carried out fresh exercises around its neighbor.
China said Monday that its joint air and sea drills were ongoing, reporting that “the eastern theatre of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army continued to carry out practical joint exercises and training in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island.”
The exercises, the Chinese military’s Eastern Command said, were “focusing on organizing joint anti-submarine and sea assault operations.”
Beijing was also set to carry out live-fire drills on Monday in parts of the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea as it defied calls for it to end its largest-ever exercises encircling the democratic island in the wake of a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which sees it as part of Chinese territory to be reclaimed one day, by force if necessary.
The island’s forces will hold anti-landing exercises in the southernmost county of Pingtung on Tuesday and Thursday, the Taiwanese army said.
“We will practice counter moves against simulated enemy attacks on Taiwan,” Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for the Eighth Army Corps, said.
They will include the deployment of hundreds of troops and about 40 howitzer guns, the army said.
Lou said the Taiwanese drills were already scheduled and were not being held in response to China’s exercises.
In Manila, the incoming chairman of the Senate committee on migrant workers, Senator Raffy Tulfo, urged the government to come up with a contingency plan for overseas Filipino workers in case tension between China and Taiwan escalates.
Tulfo said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Philippine Overseas Labor & Office (POLO), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should come up with a coordinated plan to ensure the safety of Filipino workers in Taiwan and other neighboring countries.
There are reportedly about 200,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan.
“We should be ready to evacuate OFWs in the event the current situation escalates into a war,” Tulfo said.
The island routinely stages military drills simulating a Chinese invasion and last month practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.
The latest war games come after China was accused of simulating a blockade and invasion of Taiwan in its drills in recent days.
Those drills had been expected to draw to a close on Sunday, but China on Monday said they were ongoing.
Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi—the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in decades—ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defense.
It has also deployed fighter jets, warships, and ballistic missiles in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the self-ruled island that China claims as its territory.
Those drills had been expected to end in the weekend, but neither Beijing nor Taipei confirmed their conclusion, though Taiwan’s transport ministry said it had seen some evidence suggesting at least a partial drawdown.
Taipei on Monday condemned Beijing’s exercises but insisted that no Chinese planes or ships had entered Taiwan’s territorial waters. AFP with Macon Ramos-Araneta
To show how close it has come to Taiwan’s shores, the Chinese military released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
The Eastern Command also shared a photo it said was of a warship on patrol with Taiwan’s shoreline visible in the background.
Ballistic missiles were fired over Taiwan’s capital during the exercises last week, according to Chinese state media.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills—as well as Beijing’s withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense—have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington is “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a major global crisis.
But Beijing on Monday defended its behavior as “firm, forceful and appropriate” to American provocation.
“(We) are only issuing a warning to the perpetrators,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing, promising China would “firmly smash the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of gaining independence through the US.”
“We urge the US to do some earnest reflection, and immediately correct its mistakes.”
Experts say the drills have revealed an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of carrying out a grueling blockade of the island and obstructing US forces from coming to Taiwan’s aid.
“In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities,” Grant Newsham, a researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a former US Navy officer, said,
“If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent—and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta