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China sends warships and aircraft around Taiwan for second day

April 7, 2023 03:34 PM

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China sent warships and aircraft near Taiwan for a second day on Friday, after President Tsai Ing-wen angered Beijing by meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Three Chinese warships sailed in waters surrounding the self-ruled island, while a fighter jet and an anti-submarine helicopter also crossed the island's air defence identification zone, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said.

On Wednesday, China's Shandong aircraft carrier, one of two in its naval fleet, sailed through Taiwan's southeastern waters on its way to the western Pacific, hours before Tsai met McCarthy in Los Angeles.

Tsai told reporters her government was committed to ensuring "the free and democratic way of life of the people of Taiwan" before she left Los Angeles, where she was stopping on her way back from Latin America.

"We also hope to do our best to maintain peace and stability between the two sides," she added.

Beijing said on Friday that "Taiwan is an inseparable part of China" after repeatedly warning against the meeting.

"China's sovereignty and territorial integrity will never be divided and division won't be allowed," foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing.

"The future of Taiwan lies in the reunification with the motherland".

- Muted response -

Last August, China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan for its largest show of force in years following a trip to the island by McCarthy's predecessor Nancy Pelosi.

Beijing's response to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting has so far been more muted and China's ADIZ incursions in the past two days have not risen beyond the activities of an average week.

But Taiwan is still on alert with Premier Chen Chien-jen warning on Friday that Taipei's defence and security agencies were keeping a close eye on developments.

On Thursday, Taiwan's defence ministry said three warships had been detected around the Taiwan Strait and one Chinese naval helicopter crossed the island's ADIZ.

The display prompted calls from the United States asking China "to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful diplomacy".

"We remain committed to maintaining open channels of communication so as to prevent the risk of any kind of miscalculation," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

- Successful meeting -

McCarthy, who is second in line for the US presidency, had originally planned to go to Taiwan himself but opted instead to meet Tsai in California.

The decision was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for Taiwan but avoid inflaming tensions with China, a move analysts say has so far proven successful.

Tsai said on Thursday that it was "quite common for us to meet our US friends during transits".

"I also hope the Chinese side can exercise self-restraint and don't overreact," she added.

McCarthy had vowed that US arms sales to Taiwan -- which have infuriated Chinese leadership -- would continue, in what he said was a proven strategy to dissuade aggression.

"And what we know through history, the best way to do that is supply the weapons that allow people to deter war," he said.

"It is a critical lesson that we learned through Ukraine, that the idea of just sanctions in the future is not going to stop somebody" who wants to wage war.

Tsai acknowledged the weapons deal on Thursday but did not provide further details.

"We have purchased arms from the US and we hope the arms will be delivered on time," she said.

- Sanctions -

On Friday, China slapped sanctions on Taipei's de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, banning her from entering China and accusing her of "deliberately inciting cross-strait confrontation".

Beijing's foreign ministry also announced sanctions against the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think-tank, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, for "providing a platform and facilitating Tsai Ing-wen's engagement in 'Taiwan separatism' activities in the United States".

The two organisations are now barred from engaging in transactions and cooperation with Chinese entities, while four individuals linked to them are blocked from entering or conducting business in China.

On Thursday, Taipei's top China policy-making body, the Mainland Affairs Council, said Chinese coast guard vessels were "obstructing" trade by carrying out on-site inspections on cargo and passenger ships.

Tsai responded to the potential spot checks by saying Taipei's national security team was "closely monitoring the situation" to ensure the safety of its ships "and to prevent China's interference in our territorial waters".

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