Taiwan’s president condemns China drills as irresponsible

Tsai Ing-wen says Beijing’s military drills are a risk to stability as authorities say eight PLA ships remain around island.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has condemned China over its three days of military exercises around the self-ruled island, saying they were irresponsible and a threat to regional stability.

Beijing wrapped up its war games, which simulated strikes on the territory of 23 million people, on April 10 although Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said that eight Chinese vessels continued to operate “in the waters surrounding Taiwan” on Tuesday morning.

The drills began after Tsai returned home from a visit to Central America, during which she stopped over twice in the United States and held a high-profile meeting with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.

Tsai, portrayed as a “separatist” by China, said visits to friendly countries were a “long term practice” and expected by the people of Taiwan.

“China uses this to launch military exercises, causing instability in Taiwan and the region. This is not a responsible attitude for a major country in the region,” she wrote on her Facebook page late on Monday night.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of China and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island.

The latest drills simulated attacks on Taiwan and a state media report said dozens of planes had practised an “aerial blockade”.

The exercise “comprehensively tested the integrated joint combat ability of multiple military branches under actual combat conditions”, China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Command said in a statement.

The drills did not appear to be on the same scale as the military activity that followed the visit of then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August last year, but also drew a rebuke from Japan.

Its southernmost islands lie close to Taiwan, and it hosts a major US airbase on Okinawa.

Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada described the drills as “intimidating training” to seize sea and air control around the island, the Reuters news agency reported. China appeared to have shown an “uncompromising attitude” regarding Taiwan issues through the drills, Hamada added.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai was first elected president in 2016.

Her visit to Central America included trips to Guatemala and Belize, Taipei’s remaining formal allies in the region after Honduras announced last month it was switching allegiance to Beijing.

Tsai, who says it is up to Taiwan’s people to decide their future, has previously accused Beijing of “dollar diplomacy” with the number of Taiwan’s formal allies down to 13, compared with 22 when she took office.

Despite that, the island’s government maintains strong informal ties with many governments and has welcomed a stream of legislators from countries including the US, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.

In 2021, it opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania, its first in Europe in 18 years, drawing anger from Beijing.

In her Facebook message, Tsai thanked Taiwan’s military for defending the island.

The Ministry of National Defense said it would continue to keep a “close watch” on the movement of the Chinese navy around the island.

Source: Al Jazeera