China ends war games, Taiwan details warplane, warship surge

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China ended two days of war games around Taiwan, in which it simulated attacks with bombers and practiced boarding ships, and Taiwan’s defence ministry detailed on Saturday the surge of Chinese warplanes and warships involved.

Chinese state television’s military channel said late on Friday the drills had concluded. A commentary in the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said they had lasted for two days from Thursday to Friday, as previously announced.

China’s defence ministry did not answer calls seeking comment on Saturday.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, launched the “Joint Sword – 2024A” exercises three days after Lai Ching-te became Taiwan’s president, a man Beijing says is a “separatist”.

Beijing said the exercises were “punishment” for Lai’s Monday inauguration speech, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other”, which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries.

Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims. Taiwan’s government has condemned the drills and said it will not be cowed by Chinese pressure.

On Friday 46 Chinese military planes crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Saturday. It said it had detected a total of 62 Chinese aircraft and 27 navy ships.

The aircraft, including advanced Su-30 fighters and nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flew in the strait as well as down into the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines, the ministry said.

On Friday it published footage taken by Taiwanese air force planes of a Chinese J-16 fighter and an H-6 but did not say exactly where it was taken.

China has over the past four years regularly staged military activities around Taiwan, including large-scale war games in 2022 and in 2023.

The People’s Liberation Army Daily commentary, published as “the voice of the military”, said Lai was determined to act as a “pawn” for external forces to curb China’s development.

“If Taiwan independence separatist forces insist on going their own way or even take risks, the PLA will obey orders and take decisive action to resolutely smash all separatist plots,” it said.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)