- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Chinese military forces increased aerial and warship activity near Taiwan on Tuesday, one day before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is set to meet the island’s president in California, according to Taiwan defense authorities.

China dispatched 20 aircraft and three ships of the People’s Liberation Army to areas around Taiwan, prompting Taiwanese interceptor jets and navy vessels to respond, the Taiwan Defense Ministry said in a tweet.

The jets and ships were spotted early Monday morning local time and included nine aircraft that crossed the median line separating China and Taiwan on the 100-mile Taiwan Strait.

The aircraft included nine aircraft — a high-altitude Harbin BZK-005 reconnaissance drone, six J-16 jets and one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft that entered the Taiwan air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The location of the warships or the type of vessels was not disclosed by the Taiwanese ministry.

China has warned the United States against allowing Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to visit the United States or meet with the House speaker, although the Biden administration has insisted the trip is in line with past practice for Taiwanese leaders.

An August 2022 visit to Taipei by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-level U.S. official to visit the island democracy in a quarter-century, produced a furious reaction in Beijing. China’s military reacted by staging the largest military exercises around the island in decades.

Those exercises were described by U.S. defense officials as an apparent rehearsal for a Chinese invasion of the island, which broke from the mainland during a civil war in 1949 but which China considers part of its sovereign territory. President Xi Jinping has said reclaiming the island — peacefully or otherwise — is a top priority.

The August exercises also included nearly a dozen ballistic missile firings that bracketed the island.

Mr. McCarthy is scheduled to meet the Taiwanese leader in California on Wednesday. Ms. Tsai stopped in New York last week on her way to visit allied countries in Latin America and is “transiting” through the U.S. again on her way back home.

The speaker had previously vowed to visit Taiwan, but agreed to hold the meeting in California in order to avoid exacerbating  tensions between the United States and Taiwan.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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