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Taiwan says Chinese navy ships are still in nearby waters despite Beijing saying drills have stopped

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks about recent Chinese military drills in Taipei, Taiwan on April 11, 2023.
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks about recent Chinese military drills in Taipei, Taiwan on April 11, 2023. Copyright AP/AP
Copyright AP/AP
By Euronews with AP
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Taiwan's defence ministry said eight Chinese navy vessels were still in the waters surrounding the island despite Beijing saying drills had ended.

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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has condemned China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait, saying Tuesday that China did not demonstrate the “responsible” behaviour of a major Asian nation.

China's three-day, large-scale drills that ended Monday were retaliation for Tsai's meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California last week on her tour of Taiwan's official and unofficial allies.

“As the president, I represent our country in the world, whether it’s a visit to allied countries or stopping through in the US and interacting with our international friends, and not only has this been going on for years, it’s the Taiwanese people’s shared expectation,” Tsai said in a short statement. 

“But China used this as a pretext to start military drills, creating instability in the Taiwan Strait and region. This is not the attitude of a responsible major nation in this region."

China sees such meetings as encouraging people who formal independence for the island, a step China’s ruling Communist Party says would lead to war. The sides split in 1949 after a civil war, and the government says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.

The People's Liberation Army issued a threat as it concluded the exercises. 

“The theatre’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,” the PLA's eastern command said in a statement.

 American and Filipino forces on Tuesday launched their largest combat exercises in decades in waters across the disputed South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, where Washington has repeatedly warned China over its increasingly aggressive actions.

Aaron Favila/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
US Marine Corps Major General Eric Austin and US exercise director representative and Philippine Army Major General Marvin Licudin.Aaron Favila/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

The annual drills by the longtime treaty allies called Balikatan - Tagalog for “shoulder-to-shoulder” - will run up to April 28 and involve more than 17,600 military personnel. It will be the latest display of American firepower in Asia, as the Biden administration strengthens an arc of alliances to better counter China, including in a possible confrontation over Taiwan, an island democracy that Beijing claims as its own.

That dovetails with efforts by the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to defend its territorial interests in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, by boosting joint military exercises with the U.S. and allowing rotating batches of American forces to stay in additional Philippine military camps under a 2014 defense pact.

“The relationships that we have, that we build into these exercises, will make us faster to respond to conflict, crisis, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Eric Austin said.

About 12,200 US military personnel, 5,400 Filipino forces and 111 Australian counterparts are taking part in the exercises, the largest since Balikatan started three decades ago. The drills will showcase US warships, fighter jets as well as Patriot missiles, HIMARS rocket launchers and anti-tank Javelins, according to US and Philippine military officials.

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