China declared Monday that it is “ready to fight” after completing three days of extensive combat drills encircling the island of Taiwan, simulating sealing off the island in protest of President Tsai Ing-wen’s meetings last week with U.S. lawmakers.
The "combat readiness patrols," named Joint Sword, were meant as a warning to self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own, China's military said earlier.
"The theater's troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of 'Taiwan independence' and foreign interference attempts," it said Monday.
Tsai met with key U.S. lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, last week in California and then, back in Taipei, with another group of elected American officials.
China’s military exercises were similar but smaller and less disruptive to ones it conducted last August in retaliation to a visit to Taiwan by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when it launched missile strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan.
Chinese state television said earlier on Monday that in the latest drills, aircraft, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers armed with live missiles, and warships staged exercises to "form a multi-directional island-encompassing blockade situation."
Military analysts said the drills were intended both as intimidation to Taiwan and practice for Chinese troops to seal off the territory by blocking sea and air traffic, a strategic objective if China were to use military force to take the island. China has never renounced the use of force to take control of Taiwan. Tsai has denounced the drills.
Taiwan’s military said China sent dozens of warplanes and 11 warships toward Taiwan as part of the drills that began Saturday.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said China’s military was simulating sealing off Taiwan and simulating strikes against important targets on the island.
Japan’s defense ministry said Monday the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong conducted air operations in waters close to Japan’s Okinawan islands on Sunday.
Also Monday, the United States said its guided-missile destroyer USS Milius passed near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The disputed islands are claimed entirely by China and partly by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
"This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea," the U.S. Navy said in a statement
China’s maneuvers around Taiwan come in response to Taiwan’s president meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other members of Congress in California last week.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen denounced the drills, saying Taiwan will continue to work with the United States and other democracies as the island faces “continued authoritarian expansionism” from China.
The United States has a “One China” policy, which acknowledges that Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China. The U.S. considers Taiwan’s status unsettled and sends military aid to the self-governed island to help it defend itself.
U.S. President Joe Biden has frequently said the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if China were to invade, although Washington has maintained that its One China policy has not changed.
Last year, Tsai hosted then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan and China reacted by holding its largest live-fire military drills in decades around Taiwan.
Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.