China practises ‘blockade of Taiwan’, ends war games

China decla­r­ed it had “successfully completed” three days of war games around Taiwan on Monday, capping a show of force that saw it simulate targeted strikes and practise a blockade of the self-ruled island.

Beijing’s exercises were a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, an encounter it had warned would provoke strong countermeasures.

After three days of exercises, the Chinese military said it had “successfully completed” tasks related to its “Joint Sword” drills.

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

The statement said troops were “ready for battle and can fight at any time, and will resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism and foreign interference attempts”.

The war games saw Beijing simulate targeted strikes on Taiwan and encirclement of the island, including “sealing” it off, and a state media report said dozens of planes had practised an “aerial blockade”.

One of China’s two aircraft carriers — the Shandong — also “participated in today’s exercise”, the military said.

The United States, which had repeatedly called for China to show restraint, on Monday sent the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer through contested parts of the South China Sea.

“This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea,” the US Navy said in a statement.

It added that the vessel had passed near the Spratly Islands — an archipelago claimed by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. It is about 1,300 kilometres from Taiwan.

The deployment of the Milius immediately triggered a condemnation from China, which said the vessel had “illegally intruded” into its territorial waters.

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Separately, Beijing warned on Monday that Taiwanese independence and cross-strait peace were “mutually exclusive”, blaming Taipei and unnamed “foreign forces” supporting it for the tensions.

After the drills ended, Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned China for undermining “peace and stability” in the region.

The island’s Ministry of Defence said it had detec­ted 12 Chinese warships and 91 aircraft around the island on Monday.In the course of the exercises, J15 fighter jets from China’s Shandong aircraft carrier were deployed, and were among 54 aircraft that had crossed the median line, it added.

Close Chinese ally Russia defended the drills, with a Kremlin spokesperson saying Beijing had a “sovereign right” to respond to what Moscow called “provocative acts”.

‘On Beigan island, part of Taiwan’s Matsu archipelago that is within sight of China’s mainland, 60-year-old chef Lin Ke-qiang said that he did not want war.

“We, common people, just want to live peaceful and stable lives,” Lin said, adding that Taiwan’s military was no match for China’s.

“If any war happens, now that their missiles are so advanced, there’s no way our side could resist. This side will be levelled to the ground.” China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. China views the democratic island as part of its territory and has vowed to take it one day.

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