China considers Taiwan to be its territory and has said that the three days of drills were “a serious warning against the Taiwan separatist forces’ collusion with external forces, and a necessary move to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Saturday marked the start of the drills, and a total of 71 Chinese warplanes made their way across the Taiwan Strait that day, 45 of which breached Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Meanwhile, nine ships went across the Taiwan Strait’s median line, according to the Taiwanese Defense Ministry. The line serves as an unofficial dividing line between Taiwanese and Chinese territory. According to Reuters, one of the ships fired a round from the deck while sailing close to Pingtan Island, which is the closest point in China to Taiwan.
The drills are being conducted in retaliation for the meeting between McCarthy and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, who recently returned from a 10-day visit to the United States and Central America. Beijing issued repeated warnings against the trip and cautioned that “strong and resolute measures” would be implemented if the trip proceeded.
Although China has never ruled Taiwan, a democracy made up of 23 million people, they continue to insist that the self-governing democracy belongs to them and have long tried to isolate the country diplomatically. Chinese warplanes regularly enter Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and the CCP has said that it may use armed forces if a peaceful unification does not occur.
Taiwan's defense ministry said that it would avoid escalating the conflict, responding in a rational and calm manner instead.
China pulled a similar move in August, when Nancy Pelosi, who was the Speaker of the House at the time, visited Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party carried out a series of military drills surrounding the island and fired missiles across it in response. Those drills marked the first time that China fired missiles over the island, and the move was perceived as a serious escalation of China's attempts to intimidate Taiwan using its military. On that occasion, some missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, raising tensions between Tokyo and Beijing as well.
However, it is believed that the reaction is less severe this time because the meeting took place on American soil rather than in Taiwan. Both Taiwanese and American officials attempted to portray the visit as nothing unusual to avoid provoking Beijing, but it is difficult to ignore the political significance of the meeting, which was the highest level audience that a sitting Taiwanese president has ever received on U.S. soil; the Speaker of the House is second in line to the American presidency following the vice president.
Although the U.S. withdrew diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 1979 and does not recognize it as a country in any official capacity, it does support the country's ability to defend itself and sells arms to Taipei.
McCarthy said the U.S. should continue to support Taiwan following Wednesday's meeting, tweeting: “We must continue arms sales to Taiwan and make sure such sales reach Taiwan on time. We must also strengthen our economic cooperation, particularly with trade and technology.”
President Tsai said that her government plans to continue working with the U.S. as well as other democracies in the wake of “continued authoritarian expansionism” on China’s part. She condemned China’s military reaction to her American stopovers and maintained her right to represent Taiwan on the world stage.
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