China Holds Military Drills Near Taiwan as Tsai Plans Meeting with Kevin McCarthy

A brigade of the army under the Eastern Theater Command and a department of the Navy carry out a multi-subject combat training in a sea area in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, China, Aug 27, 2022. (Photo credit should read CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday boasted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held “intensive maritime and air exercises” near Taiwan to send an intimidating message ahead of a planned meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) this week.

President Tsai passed through New York on the outbound leg of her trip to visit Taiwan’s Central American allies Guatemala and Belize. Her return trip to Taiwan will include a layover in California, where she would have an opportunity to meet with Speaker McCarthy (R-CA).

McCarthy’s office confirmed Monday that his meeting with Tsai will take place on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, defying intense pressure from China.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a visit to the Penghu Magong military air base in outlying Penghu Island, Taiwan Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. Tsai visited the military base on one of Taiwan’s outlying islands Tuesday in a display of resolve following a recent show of force by rival China. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command put out a press release on Sunday that detailed a “realistic combat-oriented exercise” conducted near Taiwan at some point in the recent past, as obsessively quoted by the Global Times:

During the joint exercise, the flotilla practiced more than a dozen training subjects including anti-submarine, anti-ship, live-fire shooting and joint maritime search and rescue, which boosted the sailors’ decision-making and coordination capabilities.

In the air, Su-30 and J-10 fighter jets attached to an aviation force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command recently carried out a confrontational air combat drill at midnight, according to another press release the PLA Eastern Theater Command published on Saturday.

The air drill, focusing on regional air defense, air assault under cover and air superiority seizing, enhanced the pilots’ all-weather, round-the-clock combat capabilities.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Global Times also eagerly quoted Taiwanese defense press releases that confirmed the island’s military noticed increased PLA activity in the region, “including 18 PLA aircraft and four PLA vessels on Saturday and 10 PLA aircraft and three PLA vessels on Sunday.” 

Some of these naval and air forces crossed what the Global Times sneeringly described as the “non-existent ‘median line’ of the Taiwan Straits,” a reference to the longstanding but informal understanding that Chinese and Taiwanese military ships and planes would avoid passing the halfway mark in the Strait of Taiwan.

The PLA further announced the delivery of Type 08 armored vehicles to units based in coastal provinces. The Type 08 is a large, slow, heavily-armed amphibious transport that was fairly explicitly designed to help Chinese forces invade Taiwanese territory and other land features in the South China Sea.

The Global Times wrapped up by quoting “Chinese experts” who said the PLA was ready to throw the kind of temper-tantrum military drills that followed former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August, should Tsai or McCarthy say anything that exceptionally displeases Beijing.

Some observers thought McCarthy meeting with Tsai in Los Angeles was something of a compromise, a way of expressing respect and support for Taiwan without McCarthy antagonizing China by repeating Pelosi’s visit.  McCarthy told reporters he might still visit Taiwan, and never considered passing up on meeting Tsai in California to placate Beijing.

“China can’t tell me where or when to go, and none of that discussion ever happened. If the president happens to be in America, then I’m going to meet with her,” McCarthy said.

Tsai also said she would not yield to “external pressure” to avoid meeting with McCarthy after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office threatened “resolute measures” in response last Wednesday.


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