China says it has 'completed various tasks' surrounding Taiwan
Cryptic statement raises possibility enhanced military drills after U.S. Speaker visit could wind down
China's military has "completed various tasks" around Taiwan but will conduct regular patrols, it said on Wednesday, potentially signalling an end to days of war games but also that Beijing will keep up its pressure on the island.
Furious at a visit to Taipei last week by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China had extended its largest-ever exercises around the self-ruled island it claims as its own beyond the four days originally scheduled.
Last week's drills included launches of ballistic missiles, some of which flew over the island's capital of Taipei, and simulated sea and air attacks in surrounding skies and waters.
In a brief statement, the Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army said its joint military operations around Taiwan had "successfully completed various tasks and effectively tested the integrated combat capabilities of the troops."
It went on: "Theatre forces will keep an eye on the changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, continue to carry out training and preparation for combat, organize regular combat readiness patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
There was no immediate reaction from Taiwan on the possible end to the increased military activity, but Taiwan's Defence Ministry said a total of 17 Chinese fighter jets flew across the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.
WATCH | Uncertainty surrounds length, scope of Chinese military drills:
Video from state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed Chinese fighter jets scrambling and refuelling in mid-air, as well as navy ships on what it said were drills around Taiwan.
China's military said the drills were focused on blockades and resupply logistics, "under a complex electromagnetic environment to refine joint containment and control capabilities," according to CCTV.
Opposition politician criticized for mainland trip
Andrew Hsia, deputy chairman of Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang, flew to China for what his party said was a prearranged trip to meet Taiwanese engaged in business.
Hsia told reporters he was not going to Beijing and did not have any official meetings arranged.
However, Taiwan expressed "regret" at the trip coming amid the Chinese drills.
"At this moment, the Kuomintang still insisted on going to China, disappointing our people," said President Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan's foreign minister said on Tuesday that China was using the military drills as a game plan to prepare for an invasion of the democratically governed island.
Pelosi says U.S. won't allow 'new normal'
Pelosi, a longtime China critic and political ally of President Joe Biden, visited Taiwan last week on the highest-level visit to the island by an American official in decades, despite Chinese warnings.
Speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Pelosi said that the United States could not allow China to normalize a new level of pressure on Taiwan.
"What we saw with China is that they were trying to establish sort of a new normal. And we just can't let that happen," she said when asked if she expected China to use her visit to justify more drills.
The Biden administration has said the U.S. military would, in the coming weeks, continue to carry out routine passages through the Taiwan Strait, which the U.S. government says is an international waterway.
Washington was sticking to its assessment that China would not try to invade Taiwan for the next two years, a Pentagon official said on Monday.
China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and it reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China's claims, saying only the island's people can decide their future.
On Wednesday, Taiwan's Defence Ministry released a video of exercises by its armed forces, saying its military was "at the ready, keeping our country safe" and China had not stopped its "incursions" nearby.
Taiwan troops were guarding their posts "24/7" and have stepped up their alertness level, the ministry said, following the guidelines of "defending the median line, defending territorial waters and defending sovereignty" to maintain the status quo.