BEIJING - China’s President Xi Jinping called on the country’s armed forces to “strengthen military training oriented towards actual combat”, state media reported on Wednesday, after Beijing conducted military drills intended to intimidate Taiwan.
Mr Xi’s comments, made on a naval inspection trip on Tuesday, come amid heightened tension in the region after the show of force by Beijing, which sees self-ruled Taiwan as its territory.
China, on Monday, concluded three days of military drills launched in response to a visit last week by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen to the United States, where she met a bipartisan group of lawmakers and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Mr Xi, on Tuesday, told the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Theatre Command Navy that the military must “resolutely defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, and strive to protect overall peripheral stability”, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Beijing has also criticised a plan for US forces to use a growing number of bases in the Philippines, including one near Taiwan.
The US and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills this week, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken committing to “standing with the Philippines against any intimidation or coercion, including in the South China Sea”.
Mr Xi added on Tuesday that China must be “innovative in its concepts and methods of combat”.
Beijing views the democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to take it one day, stepping up its rhetoric and military activity around the island in recent years.
The PLA simulated targeted strikes and a blockade of Taiwan during its recent three-day “Joint Sword” exercise.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it continued to detect Chinese warships and aircraft around the island even after drills officially concluded.
Beijing warned this week that Taiwanese independence and cross-strait peace were “mutually exclusive”, blaming Taipei and unnamed “foreign forces” supporting it for the tensions.
Washington has been deliberately ambiguous on whether it would defend Taiwan militarily.
It has however sold weapons to Taipei for decades to boost its defence capabilities and offered political support.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea – a strategic waterway through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually – despite an international court ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have overlapping claims in the sea, while the US sends naval vessels through it to assert freedom of navigation rights in international waters. AFP