BET À DAY
China is conducting live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait on Monday to simulate a 'lockdown' of the island, while the United States, which has called for 'restraint', has deployed a destroyer in waters claimed by Beijing.
The Chinese maneuvers, which started on Saturday for three days, aim to protest against the meeting, last Wednesday, of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.
The goal? Simulate a “closure” of the territory of 23 million inhabitants claimed by Beijing, explained the Chinese army. And in particular an “air blockade”, according to the state television CCTV.
The command of the Eastern theater of operations of the Army specified that the Shandong, one of the two aircraft carriers of China, “participated in today's exercise”.
Taiwan said it detected 11 Chinese warships and 59 aircraft around the island on Monday.
During the weekend, fighter planes and warships had simulated targeted bombardments against the island, as part of this operation called “Joint Sword” and denounced by Taiwan.
The United States, which called on Beijing to “restraint”, also seemed to want to make a show of force: the American destroyer USS Milius carried out an “operation of freedom of navigation” in an area of the South China Sea claimed by Beijing.
An “intrusion”, China immediately declared.
In a video posted on the Army's Eastern Theater Command WeChat account on Monday, a Chinese pilot said he “arrived near the northern part of the island of Taiwan”, with missiles “locked in place”. .
In another video, set to dramatic music, an officer's whistle causes military personnel to run into position, while a mock barrage over Taiwan appears on screen.
Something to worry the population: “We ordinary people just want a simple and stable life,” Lin Ke-qiang, a 60-year-old resident of Beigan Island in the Matsu archipelago, told AFP. , which belongs to Taiwan but is visible from the Chinese coast.
“If a war comes, now that their missiles are so advanced, we have no chance of resisting, we will be crushed”, adds the man, who works as a cook.
On Saturday, President Tsai Ing-wen denounced China's “authoritarian expansionism” and assured that Taiwan “will continue to work with the United States and other countries (…) to uphold the values of freedom and democracy”.
The US State Department reiterated its call to “not change the status quo”, while the Pentagon said it was “monitoring events closely”.
China views with displeasure the rapprochement in recent years between the Taiwanese authorities and the United States which, despite the absence of official relations, provides the island substantial military support.
It sees Taiwan as a province it has yet to successfully reunify with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Beijing is aiming for this reunification, by force if necessary.
< p>Monday's live-fire drills are being held in the Taiwan Strait near the eastern coast of Fujian, the province facing the island, according to local Chinese maritime authorities. It is located 80 kilometers south of the Matsu Archipelago and 190 kilometers from Taipei.
According to the same source, they will be conducted between 7:00 a.m. (23:00 GMT Sunday) and 8:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT Monday), around Pingtan, an island that is the closest point between China and Taiwan.
The maneuvers “serve as a serious warning against collusion between separatist forces seeking 'Taiwan independence' and outside forces, as well as their provocative activities,” warned a Chinese military spokesman, Shi Yi.
Early Monday, an AFP team on site in Pingtan saw no increased military activity. A small number of fishing boats and transport vessels were visible from the coast, but more distant vessels were not identifiable with the naked eye.
The last major deployment around the island occurred last August when China engaged in unprecedented military maneuvers around Taiwan and fired missiles in response to a visit to the island by Democrat Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House.