BEIJING/TAIPEI – Chinese authorities announced Thursday that a live-fire military exercise will be held in the Taiwan Strait next Wednesday, which Taiwan immediately criticized as a “provocative act.”
The exercise will be carried out off the coast of Quanzhou City, between 8 a.m. and midnight, according to a notice from the maritime bureau of Fujian Province, situated across the 160-kilometer strait from Taiwan.
It said navigation in some areas of the strait will be prohibited during those hours.
The Taiwanese government’s Mainland Affairs Council expressed “strong displeasure and opposition” to what it called a “provocative act which will seriously undermine cross-strait relations.”
“Taiwan has the determination to defend itself and will not succumb to pressure exerted by China,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the military is keeping a close eye on the situation, and that contingency plans are in place to ensure the safety of the Taiwanese public.
The upcoming exercise will be held amid tension between China and the United States over recent moves by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to strengthen ties with Taiwan.
In March the Taiwan Travel Act, which promotes meetings and visits between high-ranking U.S. and Taiwanese government officials, took effect, without being vetoed by Trump.
China has also been irked by the U.S. State Department’s recent approval for the issuing of marketing licenses allowing U.S. manufacturers to sell submarine technology to Taiwan.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing has since regarded Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
The upcoming military exercise will take place one day after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen embarks on a five-day state visit to the tiny African nation of Swaziland, one of only 20 countries around the world that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The last time China held a live-fire exercise in the strait was in November 2015, only four months before the 2016 presidential election won by Tsai of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.
After she took office in May 2016, Beijing unilaterally suspended official contact between the two sides.
Under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party (KMT) cross-strait ties were robust, exemplified by the signing of 23 trade deals.
On Friday, Tsai is scheduled to observe naval exercises off Taiwan’s northeastern coast, possibly from aboard a navy ship as Ma did in 2014.