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China plans Taiwan Strait live-fire exercises amid tensions

AP  |  Beijing 

announced it will hold live-fire military exercises in the Strait amid heightened tensions over increased American support for

The announcement coincided with speaking on the importance of Chinese naval power while attending a massive fleet review yesterday in the Sea off the coast of province.

"The mission of building a mighty people's has never been more urgent than it is today," Xi, dressed in army fatigues, said in remarks on the helicopter deck of one of China's most advanced destroyers.

"Strive to make the people's a first-rate world " said the fleet review included 48 ships, among them China's sole operating aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, along with 76 helicopters, fighter jets and bombers, and more than 10,000 personnel, making it the largest since the founding of the People's Republic of in 1949.

The navy began three days of exercises off on Wednesday, but ended them a day early on Thursday, the said.

No explanation was given for the curtailment of the drills or the Strait exercise, and the did not immediately respond to questions. The maritime safety authority in the coastal province of said the one-day Strait drill will be held next Wednesday.

Taiwan's responded with a statement saying the exercises appeared to be part of scheduled annual drills, and that they were closely monitoring the situation and fully capable of responding. "Citizens please feel at ease," the statement said.

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

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

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 provide Taiwan with and the appointment of have also hardened views among anti-American nationalists in China.

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." Last month, Xi delivered a strongly nationalistic speech in which he vowed to protect "every inch" of China's territory. "All acts and tricks to split the motherland are doomed to failure and will be condemned by the people and punished by history!" Xi said.

China has also stepped up air force missions around Taiwan and has repeatedly sailed the through the 160-kilometer (100-mile) -wide Taiwan Strait.

The just-completed naval drills off underscored China's growing capabilities in defending its maritime interests and territorial claims, particularly in the Sea, which it claims virtually in its entirety. An estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through the waterway annually, and China has constructed airstrips and other installations on artificial islands to enlarge its military footprint.

The drills near Hainan follow recent ones in the sea that featured the Liaoning, amid deployments and drills by the rival US Navy. China is building new vessels at a rapid pace to equip its navy, and maritime law enforcement agencies, including its first entirely domestically built

Hainan is home to a major military presence, including naval air stations and the country's largest submarine base. This week it also hosted a global business forum that included a smattering of world leaders, among them Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose country is a US treaty ally and has overlapping claims with in the Sea.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 13 2018. 19:00 IST