China launched a formation of ships toward Taiwan on Wednesday ahead of the Taiwanese president’s scheduled visit with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy after repeatedly warning against the leaders meeting.
The ships were set to patrol the central and northern areas of the Taiwan Strait separating mainland China from Taiwan, the democratic island China claims as its own, according to state news outlet China Daily.
A Chinese news release called the operation a joint patrol and inspection, and stated that it was a special task, China Daily reported.
The operation coincides with McCarthy’s scheduled meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, which China had said multiple times would be taken as a provocation. China also regularly sends warplanes and warships near the island as an intimidation tactic.
After McCarthy’s predecessor, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, made a high-profile visit to Taiwan in August, China launched multiple days of military drills around the island and sanctioned Pelosi and her family.
The latest patrol was led by the Haixun 06, which was commissioned in July and is the most advanced ship in the region operated by China’s maritime safety administration, according to China Daily.
On Tuesday, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles had warned McCarthy not to “repeat disastrous past mistakes” by meeting with Tsai, adding the move is “not conducive to regional peace” and would “only strengthen the Chinese people’s strong will and determination to share a common enemy and support national unity.”
Tsai was scheduled to meet McCarthy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the speaker’s home state after Taiwanese officials convinced McCarthy that coming to Taiwan would dangerously provoke China.
Tsai’s latest visit to the U.S. will be her seventh as the leader of Taiwan, and her meeting with McCarthy is set to be the highest-level meeting ever to be held during the transit of a Taiwanese president, according to China Power.