Surveillance planes monitored the routes of mock incoming navy ships, tanks fired rounds at pretend enemy forces landing on Taiwan's shores, and military helicopters and F-16 fighter aircraft unleashed rounds on the simulated hostile forces, Channel News Asia reported Tuesday.
Li Kexin, a Chinese diplomat to the US, warned in December the "day that a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People's Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force," referring to the largest port in Taiwan. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act signed by US President Donald Trump calls for a US vessel to make a port call in Taiwan.
US Navy vessels have previously visited Taiwan during times of high tensions in 1958 and 1996, though neither incident resulted in the outbreak of World War III.
The Global Times, a news outlet frequently used to informally express Beijing's views, echoed Li's sentiments: "The Chinese mainland has never given up the option of Taiwan mainland reunification by force, which is clear to people across the Taiwan Strait," a December editorial reads.
"Li's words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure 'Taiwan independence,' the PLA will undoubtedly take action," the Global Times piece noted.
Beijing started using a new flight route earlier this month in violation of a 2015 bilateral agreement between Taiwan and China without consulting the Taiwanese side. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen criticized the aviation path, stating that it "not only seriously affects aviation safety, but also damages the current situation in the Taiwan Strait."
China's People's Liberation Army Air Force has stepped up so-called "island encirclement patrols" around Taiwan in recent months with sorties of Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets and H-6K bombers.
Meanwhile, US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has urged "the President and Congress to accelerate the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan, as well as bring Taiwan into joint military exercises with the United States."