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China says military drills around Taiwan test seizing power – DW – 05/24/2024

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China’s military continued its war drills around Taiwan on Friday, testing their ability to “seize power” and control key areas, with Chinese naval vessels and military aircraft encircling the island.

These drills were launched on Thursday in response to Taiwanese President William Lai Ching-te’s recent inauguration.

China sees the self-ruled island as a part of its territory, and has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had tracked 49 Chinese fighter jets, as well as 19 naval and coast guard vessels in a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday.

Of those 49 warplanes, 35 flew across the middle of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto border between the two sides, it added.

According to Chinese state television CCTV, the Chinese military sent bombers carrying live missiles to conduct mock attacks in its Taiwan drills on Friday.

What did Beijing say about the drills?

The two-day military exercises, named “Joint Sword-2024A,” began on Thursday, three days after Lai took office.

Taking place in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan-controlled islands near China’s coast, the drills aim to “test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks, and occupy key areas,” according to the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command spokesperson Li Xi.

According to Beijing, the drills are a “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.” China has denounced Lai as a “dangerous separatist.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin promised dire consequences for those on the island who seek independence.

Beijing’s Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian also warned that “countermeasures” against Taipei would go further if forces promoting independence for the island provoked it. “Every time ‘Taiwan independence’ provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further, until the complete reunification of the motherland is achieved.”

How did Taiwan react?

Taiwan’s government condemned the drills, and mobilized its armed forces to monitor the situation.

President Lai Ching-te
President Lai Ching-te said he would “stand on the front line” to defend TaiwanImage: Ann Wang/REUTERS

President Lai said in a speech on Thursday that he would “stand on the front line” to defend Taiwan. Lai did not directly mention the ongoing Chinese drills.

In his inauguration address on Monday, Lai vowed to defend the island’s democracy as he called on China to end its military intimidation of Taiwan.

Experts say the drills serve as a warning that Chinese forces could quickly impose a blockade on Taiwan to pressure the self-ruled island into submission.

Meanwhile, the United Nations urged all parties to avoid escalation, while the United States, a Taiwan ally, “strongly” called on China to exercise restraint.

A public affairs officer for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet told Reuters that the US Navy is paying attention to “all activities” in the Indo-Pacific and takes its responsibility to deter aggression in the region “very seriously.”

Taiwan Tensions Soar: China Stages Live-Fire Drills After New Leader’s Inauguration

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ss/sri (Reuters, AFP)

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