China holding military exercises 'along SE coast' after US approves arms sale to Taiwan

People's Liberation Army Air Force to be active in airspace along southeast coast in coming days

PLAAF Xian JH-7A fighter jets

PLAAF Xian JH-7A fighter jets (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Just after 8:00 a.m. Sunday (July 14), China’s Ministry of National Defense announced that the People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would be conducting military drills in the airspace along the southern coast, presumably near Taiwan, in the coming days.

The exercises are described as “routine” and “annual” in the government statement. The announcement comes after China’s warnings to the U.S. and Taiwan about a massive weapons deal that has been approved by the Trump administration.

The announcement of the military drills also comes after Taiwan’s President Tsai transited through the United States on her way to visit the country’s Caribbean allies, which caused anger in Beijing. China’s Foreign Ministry pleaded with the U.S. on Friday (July 12) not to permit Tsai’s transit, and to respect the so-called ‘One China’ Principle.

China on Friday also threatened sanctions against U.S. arms companies involved in the weapons sale to Taipei. NBC quotes Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying on Saturday (July 13) that Washington should “not play with fire” on the Taiwan issue.

China’s Ministry of National Defense provides no details about the location or timing of the exercises. The notice only states they will occur “in the coming days in airspace around the Southeast coast.”

Over the weekend, CCTV media reports have been emphasizing how the arms sale from the U.S. to Taiwan will damage U.S.-China relations and threaten peace in the Taiwan Strait. The sudden announcement of the PLAAF exercises is seen by many as a message to Washington and Taipei that coveys Beijing’s dissatisfaction with the arrangement and frustration at their inability to stop the sale from proceeding.