China’s military began drills around Taiwan on Saturday, in response to Vice President William Lai return from the United States, according to Reuters.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command has responsibility for the area around Taiwan, and said in a brief statement they were carrying out joint naval and air combat readiness patrols around the island.
“This is a serious warning against Taiwan independence separatist forces colluding with external forces to provoke,” it said in the statement.
The Vice President was only supposed to come back to Taiwan as a quick stopover, before continuing his journey to Paraguay. He did however manage to give speeches whilst being in the country.
Lai is the front-runner to become the next president of Taiwan, whose elections will be held in January. This have influenced the drills, according to Taiwanese officials.
They said China was likely to conduct military exercises this week, using the stopovers as a pretext to intimidate voters and make them “fear war”.
‘A shameless cry for help’
The Taiwanese front-runner previously claimed himself as ‘a practical worker for Taiwain Independence.’ The Taiwan Work Office of China’s ruling Communist Party said afterwards, that the visit to the United States was a shameless way of Lai trying to rely on America to seek independence.
Although The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan, it is a strong international backer, who’s likely to support the island in its means to defend itself, Reuters write.