As US exits Afghanistan, China’s military conducts assault drills in seas near Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chinese fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and combat ships conducted assault drills near Taiwan on Tuesday with the People’s Liberation Army saying the exercise was necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty.

China has stepped up military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan, which it considers its own territory.

Recent U.S.-Taiwan provocations severely violated Chinese sovereignty, Eastern Theater Command spokesman Shi Yi said in a statement.

The assault drills were held near Taiwan’s southwestern and southeastern waters.

U.S. Marines take positions during an amphibious landing operation with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force at the Dawn Blitz 2015 exercise at Camp Pendleton, California, in September 2015. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement it had fully grasped and assessed the situation in the sea and air and was prepared to respond in each respect.

In June, China flew a record 28 fighter jets toward Taiwan.

On Monday, after a Tweet after the fall of Kabul, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a Chinese state news agency, said the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was an ill omen for Taiwan.

“After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling,” Hu Xijin tweeted. “Don’t look forward to the US to protect them.”

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s premier defended the island’s ability to withstand a Chinese attack even after the U.S. Afghan withdrawal, according to Bloomberg.

Premier Su Tseng-chang dismissed any suggestion that what happened in Afghanistan bodes ill for Taiwan.

Taiwan could avoid being “swallowed up” so long as it avoided similar domestic turmoil, Su said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

“The bloody lesson to be drawn from Afghanistan is that if you are in chaos internally, people from outside can’t help you, even if they want to,” he said, Bloomberg reported. “Only if you help yourself can others help you.”

Last week, officers from the U.S. and Taiwanese coast guards met to discuss improving cooperation and communication.

The meeting followed the announcement of plans by the U.S. to sell 40 self-propelled howitzers to Taiwan in a deal valued at $750 million that drew strong condemnation from Beijing.

The U.S. maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but it is the island’s key arms supplier and closest political ally. It has been boosting U.S.-Taiwan ties amid deteriorating relations with China.

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