Dozens of Chinese warplanes crossed into Taiwan’s air defense zone on Saturday as Beijing kicked off military drills around Taiwan in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Taiwan’s National Defense Ministry reported that 45 aircraft crossed the northern, central and southern median line in the Taiwan Strait and entered the island’s air defense identification zone.
A total of 71 Chinese People’s Liberation Army aircraft and 9 vessels involved in the exercises were detected by Taiwanese defense forces as of Saturday afternoon.
Taiwanese defense forces “have monitored the situation and tasked our assets to respond to these provocative activities,” the National Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter.
The Taiwanese military said it has activated its missile defense system and begun air and sea patrols to track Chinese aircraft.
China announced that it would carry out a three-day “combat readiness patrols” as a warning to those advocating for Taiwanese independence after President Tsai met with Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, capping a multi-day visit to the U.S.
SEE ALSO: McCarthy’s meeting with Taiwan leader follows fears Pelosi’s visit made the island less secure
Beijing claims the self-ruled island democracy as part of Chinese territory.
“This is a serious warning against the collusion and provocation between the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces and external forces,” a PLA statement read.
The Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper China Daily reported on Saturday that the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command “had sent its air and naval forces to surround the Taiwan Island to establish deterrence from all directions.”
“In the first day of the ‘Joint Sword’ exercises, the command has mobilized destroyers, frigates, missile boats, fighter jets, bombers, electronic warfare planes, refueling aircraft as well as multiple-launch rocket systems and conventional ballistic missile units to move them to designated zones for combat deployment,” the state-backed outlet reported.
The Chinese navy also planned to hold “live fire training” in Luoyuan Bay in China’s Fujian province opposite Taiwan. Ships have been banned from the area to allow for the live fire exercises but to take place over the next two weeks.
While China’s escalation in response to Ms. Tsai’s meeting with Mr. McCarthy was not unforeseen by officials in the U.S., the Biden administration has pushed to calm tensions and warned against further escalation by Beijing.
“The Peoples Republic of China should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any activity around the Taiwan strait,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said ahead of Ms. Tasai’s arrival in the U.S.
Mr. McCarthy remained defiant on Saturday, vowing not to be swayed by China’s provocations.
“I am the Speaker of the House,” Mr. McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “There is no place that China is going to tell me where I can for or who I can speak to.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at email@example.com.