China military says it’s ‘ready to fight’ after drills near Taiwan

An outdoor TV screen in Beijing shows Chinese fighter jets on an aircraft carrier.
A video screen in Beijing shows Chinese fighter jets on an aircraft carrier as part of the military exercises near Taiwan on Monday.
(Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

China’s military declared Monday that it is “ready to fight” after completing three days of large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island — a move that came in response to the Taiwanese president’s trip to the U.S. last week.

The “combat readiness patrols” were meant as a warning to self-governing Taiwan, China’s military said earlier. China claims Taiwan as its own.

“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,” the military said Monday.


The exercises were similar to ones China conducted in August, when it launched missile strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan in retaliation for a visit by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Military experts say the exercises serve as both intimidation and an opportunity for Chinese troops to practice sealing off Taiwan by blocking sea and air traffic, an important strategy the Chinese military might pursue in the event it uses military force to take Taiwan.

The actions follow Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s delicate mission to shore up the island’s dwindling diplomatic alliances in Central America and boost U.S. support — a trip capped with a sensitive meeting in California with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).

A U.S. congressional delegation also met with Tsai over the weekend after she returned to Taiwan.

A visit to California by the current president of Taiwan and a trip to China by her predecessor encapsulate the choices facing the self-ruled island.

April 5, 2023

China responded to the McCarthy meeting by immediately imposing a travel ban and financial sanctions against those associated with Tsai’s U.S. trip and by increasing military activity through the weekend.

“China wants to use any increase of diplomatic interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan as an excuse to train its military,” said Kuo Yu-jen, a defense studies expert and director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan.


Beijing says contact between foreign officials and the island’s democratic government encourages Taiwanese who want formal independence, a step China’s ruling Communist Party says would lead to war.

The sides split in 1949 after a civil war, and the Communist Party says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met in L.A. with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, intensifying an intractable ideological divide among immigrants.

April 5, 2023

After Pelosi (D-San Francisco) visited Taiwan, China conducted missile strikes on targets in the seas around the island, while sending warships and warplanes over the median line of the Taiwan Strait. China also fired missiles over the island itself — they landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone — in a significant escalation. Those live-fire exercises disrupted ships and flights in one of the busiest shipping lanes for global trade.

This time, maritime traffic has largely continued as normal, Kuo said. The latest exercises focused more on air strength, with Taiwan reporting at least 200 flights by Chinese warplanes over three days.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, citing the People’s Liberation Army, the country’s principal military force, said the exercises are “simulating the joint sealing off” of Taiwan as well as “waves of simulated strikes” at important targets on the island.

China sent warships and fighter jets toward Taiwan in retaliation for a meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan’s president.

April 8, 2023

On Monday, the PLA said its Shandong aircraft carrier was for the first time taking part in the exercises encircling Taiwan. In a post on the social media platform Weibo, the military showed a video of a fighter jet taking off from the deck of the ship.


The appearance of the Shandong aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean suggests that it could be used to prevent foreign militaries from coming to help Taiwan, said Han Gan-ming, a research fellow at the government-backed Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

“In the future, if there’s a similar military maneuver, then Taiwan will have to face it alone,” Han said.

Between 6 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday, a total of 70 planes were detected, and half of them crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary once tacitly accepted by both sides, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. Among the planes that crossed the median were eight J-16 fighter jets, four J-1 fighters, eight Su-30 fighters and reconnaissance planes. Taiwan also tracked J-15 fighter jets, which are paired with the Shandong aircraft carrier.

By Monday evening, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported 91 more flights by bombers, as well as fighter jets, early warning aircraft and military transport planes.

China has threatened ‘resolute countermeasures’ over a planned meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

March 29, 2023

That followed a full 24 hours between Friday and Saturday in which eight warships and 71 planes were detected near Taiwan, according to its Defense Ministry. It said in a statement that it was approaching the situation from the perspective of “not escalating conflict and not causing disputes.”

Taiwan said it monitored the Chinese moves through its land-based missile systems, as well as from its own navy vessels.


China’s military harassment of Taiwan has intensified in recent years, with planes or ships sent toward the island on a near-daily basis, and the numbers rising in reaction to sensitive activities.

The military activity has increased since Pelosi’s visit, with PLA fighter jets regularly flying over the middle boundary line.

Experts say PLA navy vessels regularly navigate the waters off Taiwan’s northeastern coast.

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, the U.S. 7th Fleet said its missile destroyer USS Milius sailed by Mischief Reef in a freedom-of-navigation operation. China has built an artificial island at the atoll to stake its claim to the disputed territory.

China said the U.S. “illegally trespassed” into waters near the reef without the permission of the Chinese government, according to a statement from the Chinese military’s southern command.

Aside from the military maneuvers, Kuo is worried about the announcements last week from Fujian’s Maritime Safety Administration, which said it would
conduct “on-site inspections” of cargo ships and working vessels in the Taiwan Strait as part of a patrol exercise.


“First they’ll target ships traveling between the Strait, then they will target any international ship,” he said. “Gradually, this will become the de facto new status quo.”

One of the U.S. representatives who attended the meeting with Tsai last week said Saturday that the U.S. must take seriously the threat China poses to Taiwan.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on China, told the Associated Press he plans to lead his committee in working to shore up the island government’s defenses, encouraging Congress to expedite military aid to Taiwan.