China announces drills around Taiwan after US Speaker meeting

Chinese maritime law enforcement fleet led by a patrol and rescue vessel Haixun 06 patrols during a joint patrol operation in the central and northern waters of the Taiwan Straits, in Fujian province, China in this handout drone picture released on 5 April 2023 and provided to Reuters on 6 April 2023.

China will hold three days of military exercises around Taiwan from Saturday, the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command announced, the day after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a trip to the United States.

China will hold "combat readiness patrols" and exercises around in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of Taiwan "as planned", it added in a brief statement without offering other details.

Tsai met US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy while in Los Angeles on Wednesday, angering Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory.

There was no immediate response from Taiwan's government, though the island's defence ministry said on Saturday morning that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted four Chinese aircraft in Taiwan's air defence zone, not an unusual number.

Tsai will meet visiting US lawmaker delegation, led by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, later on Saturday.

The People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary on Saturday that the government has "a strong ability to thwart any form of Taiwan independence secession".

"All countermeasures taken by the Chinese government belong to China's legitimate and legal right to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.

Tsai, who strongly rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims, has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as the government views her as a separatist. She says only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

China had threatened unspecified retaliation if the meeting were to take place. Beijing staged war games around Taiwan, including live fire missile launches, in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

However, unlike in August, China has yet to announce whether it will also stage missile drills. Then, China published a map at the same time as its announcement of the drills showing which maritime areas near Taiwan it would be firing into.

Taiwanese officials had expected a less severe reaction to the McCarthy meeting, given it took place in the United States, but they had said they could not rule out the possibility of China staging more drills.

China's announcement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left China following meetings with senior leaders, including President Xi Jinping, where Macron urged Beijing to talk sense to Russia over the war in Ukraine.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in China this week to meet Xi, also said stability in the Taiwan Strait was of paramount importance.

Xi responded by saying that expecting China to compromise on Taiwan was "wishful thinking", according to China's official reading of the meeting.