China military says tasks in Taiwan Strait completed, troops to stay battle-ready

A Chinese Navy Force helicopter takes part in military exercises in the waters around Taiwan on Aug 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI/BEIJING (REUTERS) - China’s military has “completed various tasks” around Taiwan but will conduct regular patrols, it said on Wednesday (Aug 10), potentially signalling an end to days of war games but also that Beijing will keep up the pressure against the island.  

China, furious at a visit to Taipei last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had extended its largest-ever exercises around the island beyond the originally scheduled four days.  

The drills last week included ballistic missile launches, some of which flew over the island’s capital Taipei, and simulated sea and air attacks in the skies and waters around Taiwan.  

In a brief statement, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said its series of joint military operations in the sea and airspace around Taiwan had “successfully completed various tasks and effectively tested the integrated combat capabilities of the troops”.

“Theatre forces will keep an eye on the changes in the situation in the 
Taiwan Strait, continue to carry out training and preparation for combat, organise regular combat readiness patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

There was no immediate reaction from Taiwan.

A source briefed on the matter told Reuters earlier on Wednesday that Chinese navy ships remained active off both Taiwan’s east and west coasts.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Chinese navy activities near the median line, an unofficial buffer in the Taiwan Strait, continued, and Chinese fighter jets also continued to fly close to the line, the source said, adding Taiwan has dispatched planes and ships in the area to monitor the situation.

“They are like flies,” the person said.

A video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed Chinese fighter jets scrambling and refuelling while airborne, as well as navy ships, on what it said were drills around Taiwan.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army said the drills were focused on blockades and resupply logistics, "under a complex electromagnetic environment to refine joint containment and control capabilities", according to CCTV.

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About 20 Chinese navy and Taiwan navy ships were close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides, as at Wednesday morning, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

Several other Chinese ships had conducted missions off Taiwan's eastern coast, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister said on Tuesday that China was using the military drills as a game plan to prepare for an invasion of the self-ruled island.

Taiwanese soldiers fire artillery during a live-fire drill in Pingtung, Taiwan, on Aug 9, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

"It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyber-attacks, disinformation, and economic coercion, in an attempt to weaken public morale in Taiwan," Mr Joseph Wu said on Tuesday, without providing evidence or offering a timetable.

"After the drills conclude, China may try to routinise its action in an attempt to wreck the long-term status quo across the Taiwan Strait."

Mrs Pelosi, a long-time China critic and a political ally of US President Joe Biden, visited Taiwan last week, the highest-level visit to the island by an American official in decades, despite Chinese warnings.

She said her visit showed unwavering US commitment to supporting Taiwan's democracy.

China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and it reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China's claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

Washington was sticking to its assessment that China would not try to invade Taiwan for the next two years, a Pentagon official said on Monday.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry on Wednesday released a video showing its armed forces undergoing exercises, saying its military is "at the ready keeping our country safe" and China had not stopped its "incursions" in areas near Taiwan.

Taiwan troops were guarding their posts "24-7" and have increased their alertness level, the ministry said, following the guidelines of "defending median line, defending territorial waters and defending sovereignty" to maintain the status quo.

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