No need to speculate on timing of China’s war games: MOFA

Chinese sailors sit during a concert featuring Chinese and foreign military bands in Qingdao, Monday, April 22, 2019. Ships from Chinese and foreign navies have gathered in Qingdao for events this week, including a naval parade, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on July 16 that the public should not speculate on why China decided to hold military exercises near the Taiwan Strait during President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) ongoing visit to the Caribbean.

Less than 45 hours after Tsai arrived in New York en route to the Caribbean, China’s Ministry of National Defense announced on its website that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would conduct military exercises over the next few days in waters and air space along China’s southeast coast, as part of the PLA’s annual plans.

At a regular press conference Tuesday, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said in response to reporters’ questions on the issue that the public should not speculate on the timing of China’s announcement.

“Please do not speculate on the president’s visit and the timing of China’s military exercises,” Lee said. “Even China has emphasized that it is a routine activity.”

He also said it is MOFA’s responsibility to arrange the president’s overseas visits, and it will not be deterred by any “outside interference.”

Such visits are aimed at fostering high level exchanges and friendships between Taiwan and its diplomatic allies and allowing the president to personally inspect Taiwan’s overseas representative offices and check on the progress of cooperation projects between Taiwan and its allies, Lee said.

Tsai is currently on a 12-day visit to four of Taiwan’s allies in the Caribbean, namely Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia. Her itinerary also includes stopovers in New York and Denver to and from the Caribbean.

Her transits in the U.S. have been in the spotlight, with some analysts interpreting them as a show of support for Taiwan by the U.S.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement Tuesday that it was closely monitoring the military movements near the Taiwan Strait by means of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

China’s military exercises in that area are not helpful to peace and stability in the region, the MND said, adding that the announcement by Beijing was aimed at demoralizing the Taiwanese people.

Also commenting on the issue, Chen Hui-chen (陳慧蓁), deputy director-general of MOFA’s Department of North American Affairs, said China’s efforts at military coercion and diplomatic suppression were the “biggest threats” to Taiwan’s national security.

Taiwan will continue to cooperate with the U.S. and other like-minded countries to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the entire region, Chen said at the MOFA press conference.

Asked about the fracas that broke out between pro-China and pro-Taiwan groups on July 11 during Tsai’s stopover in New York, she said it was handled by Taiwanese and American security units, but he did not elaborate.

By Emerson Lim