China warns against Taiwan independence as it ends military drill

China has warned that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and independence for Taiwan are “mutually exclusive” as it has concluded three days of live-fire drills near the self-governed island in response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent trip to the United States.

“If we want to protect peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, we must firmly oppose any form of Taiwan independence separatism,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing on Monday.

The war games simulated strikes on Taiwan and encirclement of the island, and a state media report said dozens of planes had practised an “aerial blockade”.

The exercise “comprehensively tested the integrated joint combat ability of multiple military branches under actual combat conditions”, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Command said in a statement.

Shi Yi, spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command, said China’s military will stand ready at all times to defeat any form of “Taiwan independence” and foreign interference.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it had detected 70 Chinese military aircraft and 11 vessels around Taiwan. It said its forces monitored the exercises and aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems were tasked with responding to them.

The ministry said 35 of the detected aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

Chinese fighter jets carried out “simulated strikes” near the self-governed island during the exercises, which included the Shandong aircraft carrier, the Chinese military said on Monday.

“Multiple batches of H-6K fighters carrying live ammunition … carried out multiple waves of simulated strikes on important targets on Taiwan island,” the Eastern Theater Command said.

The exercises called Joint Sword kicked off on Saturday. They were intended to rehearse an encirclement and blockade of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory and has threatened to take by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s government has condemned the exercises while the US has urged China to show restraint. Japan said it had scrambled jets in recent days as a result of the drills. In a statement on Monday, Japan’s Joint Staff said it had observed the Shandong and several other Chinese naval vessels south of Miyako island since Friday.

The vessels were spotted 230 to 430km (140 to 270 miles) south of the Japanese island, the statement said.

“We confirmed approximately 120 landings and departures on the Chinese navy’s Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Shandong, 80 times by fighter aircraft and 40 times by helicopters,” it said.

Earlier, Japan had said it was closely following the drills, which took place close to its Okinawa Islands. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait were important for the security of both Japan and the international community.

During the tense situation, the Philippine president said his country will not allow “any offensive actions” to be launched from the bases it has opened to US forces.

“We will not allow our bases to be used for any offensive actions,” President Ferdinand Marcos said on Monday, a week after Manila allowed the US military to use four additional bases in the country. “This is only aimed at helping the Philippines whenever we need help.”

‘Expressing anger’

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul, said the drills were China’s way of “expressing its anger” over Tsai’s visit to the US.

Tsai last week met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California, prompting a furious response from Beijing, which has branded her nationalist Democratic Progressive Party as separatists.

Taiwan, a parliamentary democracy whose contested status stems from the outcome of the 1927-49 Chinese Civil War, is officially recognised by just a handful of countries.

The US does not officially recognise Taiwan but has expressed opposition to unilateral attempts to change the status quo and has for decades supported the island’s defences with weapons sales.

The US Department of State said on Sunday that Beijing should not turn Tsai’s visit “into something it is not or use it as a pretext to overreact”.

The US navy on Monday said it sailed the USS Milius, a guided-missile destroyer, near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to uphold “freedom of navigation” in the strategic waterway.

The operation “upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea” consistent with international law, the navy said in a statement.

Beijing, which claims about 90 percent of the waterway, condemned the passage as an “illegal” intrusion.

The Kremlin on Monday backed the military drills, saying Beijing had a “sovereign right” to respond to what Moscow called “provocative acts”.

“We have witnessed multiple acts that were provocative in their character towards the Chinese People’s Republic,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “China has the sovereign right to respond to these provocative acts, including with military manoeuvres, in strict accordance with international law.”