TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has visited sailors in the island’s navy to thank them for their efforts amid days of war games and military drills by China, calling the pressure they had faced “indescribable”.
China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has been staging such exercises this month to show its anger at the visit to Taipei of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In a trip to the Suao naval base on Taiwan’s northeastern coast late Thursday, Tsai told sailors that fulfilling their mission in the tight confines of a ship must have been difficult.
“In the face of China’s harassment and provocation outside Taiwan’s territorial waters, it is even more necessary to keep an eye on the dynamics of enemy ships all the time. The pressure is so great that it is indescribable,” Tsai said, according to footage released by the defence ministry.
The military has shown firm and unwavering courage and responded calmly, guarding maritime security and maintaining regional peace, she added.
Taiwan is like a navy ship, Tsai said.
“Although it sometimes encounters unpredictable winds and waves, as long as the comrades on board are united, they can overcome all the challenges in front of them. This is the spirit of the Taiwanese people, but also the spirit of naval officers and sailors.”
A video to accompany a post on Tsai’s Facebook page about her visit showed Taiwanese sailors, wearing anti-flash gear, warning Chinese warships by radio to change direction, saying they had “seriously damaged security in the Taiwan Strait”.
Tsai has repeatedly said Taiwan would neither escalate conflict nor provoke during the crisis, and the island’s defence ministry has stressed its “calm” response to Chinese activities.
Although the scale of China’s drills is much reduced from earlier in the month, Taiwan continues to report Chinese fighters and warships operating around the island.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Gerry Doyle and Mark Heinrich)