China enforces blockade on last scheduled day of Taiwan drills

  • Chinese jets, warships train to blockade Taiwan
  • China is conducting three scheduled days of exercises
  • A Chinese aircraft carrier is also involved in the exercise
  • Taiwan reports several Chinese planes nearby

TAIPEI, April 10 (Reuters) – China’s military carried out air and naval blockade exercises around Taiwan on Monday, its last scheduled day, and a Chinese aircraft carrier joined combat patrols, reporting a resurgence of warplanes near the island of Taipei.

China announced the three-day drills on Saturday after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned to Taipei following a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.

China regards democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has never shied away from using force to bring the island under Beijing’s control. Taiwan’s government vehemently denies China’s claims and has condemned the exercises.

Chinese state television said aircraft and warships, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers armed with direct missiles, conducted exercises to “create a multi-directional blockade situation involving the islands”.

“In the Taiwan Strait, the waters northwest and southwest of Taiwan and east of Taiwan (Chinese forces) took the initiative to attack, gave full play to their performance advantages, maneuvered flexibly to seize favorable positions, and advanced at high speed to block opponents,” the report said.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said the aircraft carrier also took part in combat patrols in Shandong and showed combatants departing from its base.

Taiwan has been monitoring Shandong since last week in the Pacific Ocean.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry released a map of the previous 24 hours of Chinese air force operations on Monday, showing four carrier-based Chinese J-15 fighter jets operating east of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean.

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As of midnight Monday, the ministry said it had spotted 59 military aircraft and 11 ships around Taiwan, and that the Shandong carrier group was conducting exercises in the western Pacific.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that Shandong conducted air operations in the waters off Japan’s Okinawa Islands on Sunday.

Jet fighters and helicopters landed on the carrier 120 times from Friday to Sunday, as the carrier, three other warships and a support ship came within 230 kilometers (143 miles) of Japan’s Miyako Island, the defense ministry said.

Japan is following “with great interest” China’s military exercises around Taiwan, a top government spokesman said on Monday.

Japan Given how close the southern Japanese islands are to Taiwan, Japan has long been concerned about China’s military activities in the area.

“The importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is important not only to Japan’s security, but also to the stability of the international community as a whole,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

The southern Japanese island of Okinawa, home to a major US air force base, was hit by Chinese missiles that landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone last August when China held war drills to protest then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.

The European Union expressed concern on Monday that Taiwan’s status should not be changed by force, where any escalation, accident or use of force would have huge global implications.

The US has said it is closely monitoring China’s exercises.

Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics

‘Target Lock’

China’s military simulated precision strikes against Taiwan in a second day of exercises around the island on Sunday.

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The Eastern Theater Command posted a short video on its WeChat account on Monday showing an H-6 bomber flying in the skies north of Taiwan.

“The missiles are in good condition,” an unidentified voice says, as the video shows images from the cockpit.

“Launch fire control radar, lock on target,” says another voice, showing images of the missile under the plane’s wing.

It shows a pilot preparing and then pressing the fire control button in what it describes as a simulated attack, although it does not show the missiles being fired.

Taiwan’s military has repeatedly said it will respond peacefully to China’s exercises and will not provoke conflict.

The Defense Ministry separately released images of mobile launchers for the Taiwanese-made Hsiung Feng anti-ship missiles on Monday.

Reuters reporters saw Cheung Feng launchers parked near a scenic spot on Monday at Cape Maobido Park in Taiwan’s southern tip Pingtung County, with soldiers standing guard and tourists looking on and taking photos.

Normal life continued in Taiwan without panic or disruption, and civilian flights were operating as normal.

“Most ordinary people are probably not afraid, the main reason is that everyone thinks that China will definitely not start a war,” said Dong Bao-xiung, 78, a retiree and former soldier.

Taiwan’s stock market shrugged off the tension, with the benchmark index (.TWII) closing up 0.3% on Monday.

However, China’s blue-chip CSI300 index (.CSI300) fell 0.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) fell 0.4%.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher, Ann Wang and Ebrahim Harris in Pingtung, Taiwan, Liz Lee in Beijing, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Tim Kelly and Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Editing: Christopher Cushing, Jamie Freed, Gerry Doyle and Toby Chopra

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