China on Sunday launched major drills around Taiwan in response to the new US military aid for Taipei that’s included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) President Biden signed into law on Friday.
“The Eastern Theatre Command of the PLA organized joint combat-readiness patrols and joint firepower strike drills in airspace and waters around Taiwan on December 25,” China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said. “It was a resolute response to the escalating collusion and provocation by the United States and Taiwan.”
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said early Monday that in the previous 24 hours, it detected 71 Chinese warplanes in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), including 43 that crossed the median line, an unofficial barrier that separates the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
The drills were the largest show of force around Taiwan since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited the island in early August despite warnings from China. Pelosi’s visit sparked the largest-ever military drills around Taiwan, which included launching missiles over the island and a simulated blockade. Before Pelosi’s visit, Chinese warplanes rarely crossed the median line, but Chinese flights across the barrier are now a common occurrence.
Sunday’s drills marked the largest Chinese warplane presence in the region since Taiwan’s Defense Ministry began releasing daily reports on Chinese military activity in the region in 2020. A Taiwanese official told Reuters that during the drills, China dispatched warplanes to carry out simulated attacks on Taiwanese and US warships.
The official also said that Taiwan assessed the exercises that were done in response to the new US military aid for Taiwan included in the NDAA. The US has sold weapons to Taiwan since severing formal relations with Taiwan in 1979, but the funds authorized by the NDAA will allow the US to finance the deals for the first time.
Taiwan will receive $2 billion each year through 2027 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF), a State Department program that gives foreign governments funding to purchase US arms. China hawks are unhappy that the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that funds the NDAA will give Taiwan the money through loans. FMF aid is typically given through grants that don’t need to be paid back, but congressional appropriators opted for loans over budget concerns.
Besides funding Taiwan’s arms purchases, the NDAA also calls for an increase in US-Taiwanese military cooperation. As the US has been increasing ties with Taiwan in recent years, Chinese officials have said such support could lead to war. In a recent meeting with President Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that the issue of Taiwan is a “red line” that the US must not cross.