China has held live-fire exercises off its southeast coast, state media said on Thursday, in an apparent warning to the democratic, self-ruled island of Taiwan against what Beijing deems as provocative remarks on independence.
The official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday an air unit of the People’s Liberation Army ground forces held a live-fire exercise on Wednesday off China’s southeast coast. The PLA said the exercise involved the coordination of various types of armed helicopters that detected targets on the water and attacked them.
The exercise ended at around 23:00 with the landing of the last helicopter, Xinhua said.
It was unclear if the exercises referred to earlier drills announced by China that were to take place in the Taiwan Strait.
State broadcaster China Central Television reported on Wednesday that the Taiwan Strait exercises targeted advocates of formal independence for Taiwan, saying in a headline on its website, “Don’t say you haven’t been warned!”
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry spokesperson, Chen Chung-chi, sought to downplay the drill, saying China was exaggerating the scale of the activity to create anxiety among Taiwanese. “It is the Chinese Communist Party that has played this up with cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling through the state media, hoping to create panic and unease,” Chen said.
Chen described the drill as “a regular artillery shooting exercise” and said China was hyping it up to sound like “a so-called military exercise in the Taiwan Strait”.
China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to questions. The maritime safety authority in the coastal province of Fujian announced the one-day drill last week, saying only that it would start at 08:00 and end at midnight.
Last week’s announcement of the drill coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attendance at what was the largest fleet review since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It comprised 48 ships, among them China’s sole operating aircraft carrier, along with 76 helicopters, fighter jets and bombers, and more than 10 000 personnel.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and says the sides, which separated during the Chinese civil war in 1949, must eventually be united, by force if necessary.- AP