On Tuesday, the United States and the Philippines are set to launch the largest military exercise they have ever held, known as the Balikatan Exercise. The exercise, which will last for 17 days, involves almost 18,000 military personnel from both countries.
The move comes amid growing tensions between the US and China, which escalated when Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-Wen, recently met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in California.
The friendship between America and the people of Taiwan has never been stronger. It is my honor to welcome President @iingwen to the @Reagan_Library. pic.twitter.com/2XSIJRv7Vp
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) April 5, 2023
The meeting between Tsai Ing-Wen and McCarthy has drawn criticism from China, which has condemned the event and threatened to take action to protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China has also cautioned the United States against taking a “dangerous” and “wrong” approach in its dealings with Taiwan.
Following the meeting, China started three days of live-fire drills near Taiwan to demonstrate its military might and invoke intimidation.
China’s three-day live-fire drills around Taiwan featured their Shandong aircraft carrier and a large air presence. The Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan reported a total of 91 aircraft operating in the area, with at least 71 crossing the median line in the strait between Taiwan and China. This disregard for the unofficial boundary marks an escalation in tensions between the two countries.
After the conclusion of the drills on Tuesday morning, the Chinese military stated that the exercises were intended to seal off the island nation and perform “waves of simulated strikes.”
China claimed that the exercises had demonstrated its troops’ readiness to resolutely crush any form of “Taiwan independence and foreign interference attempts.”
The National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, criticized China for overreacting to the meeting, mentioning that it was the seventh such visit by a Taiwanese president to the US.
In a statement, Kirby said, “We’re very comfortable and confident that we have in place, in the region, sufficient resources and capabilities to protect our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific. I would add, there’s no reason for tensions across the Taiwan Strait to devolve into any kind of conflict.”
The defense ministry of Taiwan reported that Chinese naval ships and warplanes continued to remain in the waters surrounding Taiwan even after the drills concluded on Tuesday morning. The Balikatan drills, set to begin on Tuesday between the US and the Philippines, involve a significant increase in personnel from the previous year. The drills, scheduled to involve nearly 18,000 personnel, had half as many personnel involved in 2022.