China carries out new major combat drills around Taiwan as German delegation visits island

The Chinese military has conducted large-scale combat drills, sending warplanes and navy vessels toward Taiwan in Beijing’s latest show of force directed towards the island.

Taiwan's defence ministry said at least 57 Chinese planes and four warships were deployed in the war games in 24 hours between 6am Sunday to 6am Monday.

At least 28 aircraft, including 12 J-16s, two Sukhoi Su-30s, six J-11s and two J-10s – all fighter jets – and one KJ-500 surveillance and early warning aircraft, crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which acts as an unofficial boundary between both sides.

The ministry said it also detected two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and three BZK-005 drones entering the country's southeast air defence identification zone.

China's Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) announced joint combat drills around 11pm on Sunday "to practice land strikes and sea assaults”.

The PLA said the drill was conducted in an effort to test joint combat capabilities and "resolutely counter the provocative actions of external forces and Taiwan independence separatist forces".

Beijing's military exercise coincided with the visit of a group of German MPs, who landed in Taiwan on Monday to meet with president Tsai Ing-wen. The Geman delegation was led by Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the German parliament’s defence committee.

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is a part of its national territory, even though the island has been self-ruled since it split from the mainland in 1949 following a civil war. Mainland China almost always reacts strongly to visits by Western delegations to the island, including by scrambling fighter jets and bombers.

China’s fresh hostility was condemned by the Taiwanese president’s office, which accused Beijing of intensifying cross-strait and regional instability.

“Through various ungrounded claims and reasons, the communist forces have persistently carried out military operations around Taiwan in recent days. For this, the Presidential Office voices its grave condemnation,” spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement.

Taipei said it responded to the sortie by deploying ships, aircraft, and land-based missile systems, as well as issuing radio alerts.

The defence ministry said it neither sought escalation nor conflict but will firmly defend its sovereignty and security. "PLA's false accusations and irrational provocation have severely destabilised the security of Taiwan Strait and neighbouring regions.

"Republic of China Armed Forces constantly monitor our surrounding area and respond to activities accordingly. We can and we will keep our homeland safe.”

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“Military aggression coming from Beijing was unacceptable,” said Johannes Vogel, a senior MP from one of Germany’s ruling coalition parties. “We want to also let you see our visit here as a gesture of support,” he told Taiwan parliament speaker You Si-kun.

In December last year, China sent a record 71 planes and 7 ships toward Taiwan – the largest such exercise in 2022.

The island will hold its own annual two-day military drills starting Wednesday ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.