The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sent 18 aircraft and four naval vessels toward Taiwan on Saturday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said, as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the island’s Central American allies.
Taiwan’s military detected the Chinese aircraft and naval vessels at around 6 a.m. (local time), with 10 aircraft spotted crossing the Taiwan Strait median line, the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Taiwan responded by deploying aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to monitor the Chinese military’s activities.
This came after Beijing threatened retaliation if Tsai meets with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during her 10-day trip to Guatemala and Belize—two of the 13 nations that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan—which began on March 29.
Tsai arrived in Guatemala on Friday and met with her counterpart, Alejandro Giammattei. The two nations signed a “basic cooperation agreement” after the leaders’ meeting, according to Tsai’s Office.
The Taiwanese leader is expected to visit Belize afterward and make stopovers in Los Angeles on her way back.
CCP Warns of ‘Serious Confrontation’
Taiwan’s government has said Tsai’s trip to Central America involves transits that are standard practice and has warned Beijing not to use them as a pretext for aggressive action toward the self-ruled island.
However, China’s charge d’affaires Xu Xueyuan said the CCP views her transit as a disguise for Tsai’s intention to advocate Taiwan’s independence and warned that it could lead to “serious confrontation in the U.S.-China relationship.”
“As we say, ‘those who play with fire will perish by it.’ This is not a threat. The Chinese government must react to violations of the ‘One China’ principle,” Xu told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
The CCP staged military drills around Taiwan following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to the self-ruled island in August 2022, and restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.
It remains unclear whether Beijing will respond with a comparable action this time.