The defence ministry said on Wednesday that the army had stepped up drills in the southeast coast to bolster its ability to handle security threats. The comment came after the 31st Group Army, affiliated with the newly founded Eastern Theatre Command, conducted a landing exercise on the Fujian coast on Monday. ‘More PLA drills mean more military jet crashes’ as China ramps up combat readiness One of the group’s main tasks is to respond to a proclamation of independence by Taiwan. “The recent land, air and sea training exercises in the southeast of China is aimed at testing and boosting China’s ability to address security threats and fulfil its military mission,” the ministry said. It said the drills did not target any party, but military observers said they served as a warning against Taiwanese independence – ahead of Tsai Ing-wen’s presidential inauguration tomorrow. China’s PLA forces carry out landing drills near Taiwan outpost days after elections Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the exercises were also targeted at the United States. “The US does not want to get involved in case of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait … China will be able to [indirectly] exert pressure on Taiwan by pressuring the US,” Ni said. Ni said the drill on Monday – which involved a destroyer, a frigate and a ship-based helicopter – was smaller in scale than other exercises but that it had a stronger strategic focus. “The part most worth noticing is that it was a landing exercise … This would make the US feel pressure,” he said, adding that the landing exercise showed the army had the ability to take control of Taiwan. Beijing urges US to abide by one-China principle after Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen takes office Besides military activities, the mainland has stepped up its rhetoric as Taiwanese president-elect Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party prepare to be sworn into office. In a phone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China hoped the US would also abide by the “one China” principle. Xinhua quoted Kerry as saying in the phone conversation with Wang that Washington had not and would not change its position on Taiwan and did not support Taiwanese independence in any form. The US Department of State yesterday confirmed the discussion with Wang but did not mention whether Kerry said he did not support Taiwanese independence, Central News Agency reported. Hu Shiqing, a researcher at the Taiwan Studies Institute at the China Academy of Social Sciences, said the mainland was concerned that Tsai would challenge the consensus built between the mainland and Taiwan’s outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou on improving ties between the two sides. “Cross-strait relations have reached a critical point in determining the future path of how the relations will continue to develop,” Hu said.