China sent 71 warplanes near Taiwan on Saturday as the country kicked off three days of military drills and "combat readiness patrols" around the self-ruled island, just days after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen incurred Beijing's wrath for meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command, which oversees operations in the East China Sea including the Taiwan Strait, said in a short statement that the "Joint Sword" drills and combat patrols were being held in the waters and airspace to the north, south and east of Taiwan and would conclude on Monday.

"This is a serious warning against the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces' collusion and provocation with external forces, and it is a necessary action to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Eastern Theater spokesman Senior Col. Shi Yi said.