BEIJING: China's military has "completed various tasks" around Taiwan but will conduct regular patrols, it said on Wednesday (Aug 10), potentially signalling an end to days of war games but also that Beijing will keep up the pressure against the island.
Furious at a visit to Taipei last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China had extended its largest-ever exercises around the self-ruled island it claims as its own beyond the four days originally scheduled.
The drills last week included ballistic missile launches, some of which flew over the island's capital of Taipei, and simulated sea and air attacks in surrounding skies and waters.
In a brief statement, the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command said its series of joint military operations in the sea and airspace around Taiwan had "successfully completed various tasks and effectively tested the integrated combat capabilities of the troops".
"Theatre forces will keep an eye on the changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, continue to carry out training and preparation for combat, organise regular combat readiness patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said in response to China's statement that under the premise of not relaxing combat readiness, Taipei would "fully adjust the allocation of forces based on factors such as the enemy threat".
Earlier on Wednesday, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters that Chinese navy ships were active off both the east and west coasts of Taiwan.
As of the afternoon, the Chinese navy continued activities near the median line, an unofficial buffer in the Taiwan Strait, and Chinese fighter jets also continued to fly close to the line, the source said.
Taiwan has dispatched airplanes and ships to the area to monitor the situation, the source said, adding: "They are like flies."
Video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed Chinese fighter jets scrambling and refuelling mid-air, as well as navy ships on what it said were drills around Taiwan.
China's military said the drills were focused on blockades and resupply logistics, "under a complex electromagnetic environment to refine joint containment and control capabilities", according to CCTV.
Taiwan's defence ministry said 17 Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line on Wednesday.
'REGRET' AT OPPOSITION TRIP
Andrew Hsia, deputy chairman of the Kuomintang, Taiwan's main opposition party, flew to China on Wednesday for what his party said was a pre-arranged trip to meet Taiwanese businesspeople.
Hsia told reporters he was not going to Beijing and did not have any official meetings arranged.
However, Taiwan's government expressed "regret" at the trip coming amid the Chinese drills.
"At this moment, the Kuomintang still insisted on going to China, disappointing our people," said Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan's foreign minister said on Tuesday that China was using the military drills as a game-plan to prepare for an invasion of the democratically governed island.
Pelosi, a long-time China critic and a political ally of President Joe Biden, visited Taiwan last week on the highest-level visit to the island by an American official in decades, despite Chinese warnings. She said her visit showed unwavering US commitment to supporting Taiwan's democracy.
China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and it reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China's claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future.
Washington was sticking to its assessment that China would not try to invade Taiwan for the next two years, a Pentagon official said on Monday.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry on Wednesday released a video showing its armed forces on exercises, saying its military is "at the ready keeping our country safe" and China had not stopped its "incursions" in areas near Taiwan.
Taiwan troops were guarding their posts "24-7" and have increased their alertness level, the ministry said, following the guidelines of "defending the median line, defending territorial waters and defending sovereignty" to maintain the status quo.