BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese military will hold three days of live-fire drills in the sensitive Taiwan Strait starting from Friday, the government said in a notice issued to warn shipping away from the area.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its rule. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war with the Communists in 1949.
Ties have generally improved under Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who has signed a series of landmark trade and economic pacts with China, but deep suspicions remain on either side.
In a brief statement on Thursday, China’s Maritime Safety Administration gave coordinates just off the coast of the Chinese port city of Quanzhou for the exercises, which will finish on Sunday. It gave no other details.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said they were aware of the annual drills, which the ministry described as routine.
Quanzhou lies between two small groups of islands, Kinmen and Wu-chiu, that have been controlled by Taiwan since 1949. Another group, the Matsu islands, are slightly further up the coast near the Chinese city of Fuzhou.
The Taiwan-controlled islets were once heavily fortified and at the frontlines of the cold war between China and Taiwan. Troop numbers have been cut drastically in recent years as cross-strait ties have improved.
Taiwan’s military began five days of drills this week, including on Kinmen. On Tuesday, the exercises simulated Chinese submarines attacking Kinmen but being repelled by Taiwanese amphibious forces.
Taiwan’s military has warned that China is building two new aircraft carriers and has practiced attacks on targets modeled on places in Taiwan.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI and Yimou Lee in KINMEN, Taiwan; Editing by Paul Tait