The president told troops at a navy base that their mission is to defend the country’s “territorial sovereignty” This photo taken on April 7, 2023 shows the rocket force of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) transferring a missile before the combat readiness patrol and military exercises around the Taiwan Island. © Liu Mingsong/Xinhua

President Xi Jinping has urged the Chinese military to prepare for real combat, national media reported on Wednesday. The remarks came days after Beijing held massive military drills around Taiwan which reportedly involved the simulation of precision strikes on the self-governing island.

Addressing military personnel at a navy base in Southern China on Tuesday, Xi called for the strengthening of “military training oriented toward actual combat,” as quoted by the state-run CCTV channel.

The Chinese leader is reported to have named the defense of Beijing’s “territorial sovereignty and maritime interests” as well as the protection of “overall peripheral stability” as the navy’s core mission.

On Saturday, China launched three-day military exercises codenamed ‘United Sharp Sword’ in the vicinity of Taiwan.

According to Taipei’s military, it detected nine warships and some 71 warplanes in the area the following day.

US and ally hold biggest joint drill amid China tensions US and ally hold biggest joint drill amid China tensions

Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command, described the vessels and aircraft as “encircling” the island. He clarified that the drills were meant as a warning “against the collusion between separatist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and external forces, and against their provocative activities.”

The military maneuvers came on the back of a visit by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to the US last week, when she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The meeting was the second time Tsai had sat down with a US House speaker in less than a year. A visit by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan in August infuriated Beijing, which responded with its largest-ever drills in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan has been de facto independent since 1949, when the losing side in the Chinese civil war fled to the island and established its own administration. While only a handful of nations have recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state, the US has long maintained close, unofficial ties with Taipei, both militarily and economically. Formally, Washington still professes to adhere to the ‘One-China’ principle.

Beijing considers the island to be an inalienable part of its territory that has been seized by separatists, and accuses the US of meddling in its domestic affairs and encouraging “secessionist” politicians.

While the Chinese leadership says it prioritizes a peaceful ‘reunification’, it has not ruled out military options. (RT)