BEIJING—A formation of Chinese warships has been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, China’s state media said on June 26, amid heightened tensions between Beijing and the self-ruled island.
The news comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in China for a three-day trip.
Since June 17, a group of navy warships, including a Type 054A frigate and a Type 052C destroyer, have been conducting exercises near Taiwan, including in the Bashi Channel and the Taiwan Strait, said 81.cn, an official publication of the Chinese army.
“The drills tested the military and training abilities of warship, aviation, and coastal defense troops, via organizing real combat training in multiple areas of the ocean,” it said.
It was not clear if the drills had ended.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement that the vessels were being monitored continuously and there was no cause for alarm.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control—despite Taiwan being a democracy with its own constitution, elected officials, and military. In recent weeks, Beijing has increased aggressive rhetoric threatening attacks on Taiwan, held military drills near the island, and amped up hacking attacks on Taiwan’s military. Taipei has denounced such actions as intimidation.
China often says the United States’ acknowledgment of its “one-China” policy is foundational for two-way ties, and that Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in the relationship.
U.S. overtures toward Taiwan, from unveiling a new de facto embassy to passing the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. officials to visit, have led to escalated tensions between China and the United States.
The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, U.S. officials said in early June. Such a passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump.
The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.
China’s hostility toward Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) won presidential elections on the island in 2016.
On June 25, Tsai, while speaking at a forum in Taipei, called on democratic nations around the world to unite against China and other “anti-democratic forces.”
Reporting by Christian Shepherd. Epoch Times staff member Frank Fang contributed to this report.