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China announces live-fire military drills in Taiwan Strait amid tensions

China has also stepped-up air force missions in airspace around Taiwan

AP/PTI  |  Beijing 

Chinese President Xi Jinping stands for the national anthem during the closing session of the annual National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo: AP/PTI)
Chinese President Xi Jinping | Photo: AP/PTI

on Thursday announced live-firing military exercises in the Strait amid heightened tensions over increased American support for Taiwan's government.

The announcement by the maritime safety authority in the coastal province of coincided with a statement from their counterparts in province that the was ending a three-day exercise in the Sea one day early.

No explanations were given in either case and the did not immediately respond to questions. The authorities said the one-day Strait drill will be held next Wednesday.

While responded mildly to US Donald Trump's early outreach to Taiwan's independence-leaning government, recent developments have prompted a tougher response. claims Taiwan, which separated from the mainland during the Chinese civil war in 1949, as its own territory and says the sides must eventually be united, by force if necessary.

Despite the lack of formal ties, is legally bound to respond to threats to and is the island's of imported

Chinese officials have denounced the recent passage of a US law encouraging more high-level contacts with Taiwan. China says the Taiwan Travel Act violates US commitments not to restore formal exchanges severed when switched diplomatic recognition from to in 1979.

An agreement to pass Taiwan and the appointment of have also hardened views among anti-American nationalists in China.

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday warned against additional moves to strengthen relations with Taiwan.

"Any attempt to play the 'Taiwan card' would only be futile," said. China, Ma said, would "not hesitate to protect our core interests."

That came after last month delivered a strongly nationalistic speech in which he vowed to protect "every inch" of China's territory.

China has also stepped-up air force missions in airspace around Taiwan and has repeatedly sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the 160 kilometer-wide

The just-completed naval drills off underscored China's growing capabilities in defending its maritime interests and territorial claims, particularly in the disputed Sea.

First Published: Thu, April 12 2018. 19:49 IST