TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday (Aug. 13) announced that it was carrying out military exercises in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding waters to "fight against provocations and protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
A day after U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar completed the highest-level visit by an American official since 1979, Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui (張春暉), a spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, stated that multiple military services are taking part in exercises in the Taiwan Strait, including the northern and southern ends, according to Beijing's state-run mouthpiece China Daily.
Zhang described the exercises as "a necessary move responding to the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait" and said they were "meant to safeguard national sovereignty." The newspaper then emphasized that Zhang failed to use the term "routine exercise" in this instance, indicating that it was tailored response by Beijing to Azar's visit.
Apparently alluding to Azar's trip, Zhang then condemned recent "negative acts" by "some foreign nations" as sending "misleading signals to separatist forces" and threatening peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Zhang claimed that the drills were an "unambiguous warning to Taiwan secessionists and the forces behind them," and the state-run apparatus indicated that the statement made a "specific reference to adversaries," without mentioning the U.S. by name.
The article then cited Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a defense ministry spokesman, who at a news conference on July 30 said that recent moves between the militaries of the U.S. and Taiwan, including the "deploying of U.S. troops in exercises in Taiwan," violated principles of international relations and U.S. commitments to China, brought negative impacts to peace and stability in the strait, and "sent misleading signals to Taiwan secessionists." He then called on the U.S. to halt any further official exchanges or military ties and pledge that "such provocations will never be repeated again."
Also on Thursday, the Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning that live-fire drills would be held at sea near Taizhou's Baisha Island from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15. It then stated that all naval vessels were prohibited from entering the area where the drills are taking place during that period.
In response, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) that day issued a statement in which it said that it was closely monitoring the situation around the Taiwan Strait both in the air and at sea. It emphasized that the situation is currently normal and that the public should not be overly concerned.
The MND said cross-strait stability is the cornerstone of regional peace and that the armed forces will continue to build a "solid national defense force with the ability and determination to defend the country's freedom, democracy, and sovereignty, and contribute to regional security and stability."