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CHINA STAGES MILITARY DRILLS AROUND TAIWAN AS 'HARSH PUNISHMENT - VORAKA

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN VORAKA

Article Published on 23 May 2024 by Kelley Rose | www.vorakamag.com

CHINA STAGES MILITARY DRILLS

China has launched two days of military drills surrounding Taiwan, labeling them as "harsh punishment" for what it describes as the island's "separatist actions." These maneuvers began just three days after the inauguration of President William Lai, who called on China to stop its threats and recognize Taiwan's democracy.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province destined to return to Beijing's control, whereas Taiwan sees itself as a distinct entity. Taiwan's defense ministry condemned the drills as "irrational provocations" and responded by deploying naval, air, and ground forces to "defend the island's sovereignty."

For the first time, Thursday's drills simulated a comprehensive attack rather than an economic blockade, according to Taiwanese military experts. The exercises covered the entire main island and targeted the Taipei-controlled Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin islands, which are close to the Chinese coast, as shown on maps released by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Signaling Displeasure with Taiwan's New President

The drills also extended to the east of Taiwan, where the island's rugged coastline has long been a bastion of its military defenses, including a large underground airbase near Hualien. This region is near Japan’s southern islands and serves as a natural resupply route. By sending naval and air patrols to this area, China aims to show that Taiwan's eastern flank is now exposed to Chinese attack and to signal to the United States that any resupply or reinforcement efforts from the east are vulnerable to Chinese missile and naval strikes.

The PLA stated that the drills focused on joint sea-air combat readiness patrols, precision strikes on key targets, and integrated operations within and beyond the island to test the "joint real combat capabilities" of its forces. Taiwanese media cited military expert Chieh Chung, who said the exercise aims to "simulate a full-scale armed invasion of Taiwan."

Over the past year, China has repeatedly practiced encircling Taiwan with fighter jets and navy ships. Taipei reported an increase in incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace leading up to Mr. Lai's inauguration. China's first “encirclement” operation occurred in August 2022, following a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, simulating a blockade of Taiwan with ships, aircraft, and missile strikes.

The PLA characterized Thursday's drills as a "strong punishment for the separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces." China’s foreign ministry defended the drills as a "necessary and legitimate move" to protect national sovereignty. Spokesman Wang Wenbin stressed, "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. This is both a historical fact and the current status quo. Taiwan independence is doomed to fail."

In his inauguration address, Mr. Lai called on China to "stop threatening Taiwan," a speech denounced by Beijing. Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Mr. Lai "disgraceful." Following Mr. Lai's election victory, Beijing reiterated that "Taiwan is part of China" and has consistently rejected Mr. Lai's offers for dialogue, labeling him a "separatist" and "troublemaker" for his previous pro-independence statements.

Taiwan's defense ministry stated that the drills on Thursday "highlight [Beijing's] militaristic mentality" and noted that continuous harassment by Chinese aircraft and ships has severely undermined global peace and stability. Taiwan’s presidential office expressed regret over China's "unilateral military provocations" threatening the island's democracy and freedom. The Mainland Affairs Council, which manages relations with China, affirmed Taiwan's commitment to maintaining cross-strait peace. Spokesman Liang Wen-chieh stated, "Beijing should understand that its intimidating tactics will not win hearts and minds."

While China and Taiwan continue to trade, they lack a formal communication channel, and most countries diplomatically recognize China rather than Taiwan. Analysts note that Beijing's claims have grown more assertive under Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly emphasized that "reunification" will happen, most recently just weeks before Taiwan’s election. China's military maneuvers around Taiwan have so far stopped short of an invasion and remained within a grey zone. Analysts suggest these tactics are designed to weaken Taiwan gradually over time, aligning with China's strategy.

China and Taiwan - Key Points

  • Poor Relations: China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and insists on unification, by force if necessary. Taiwan sees itself as distinct.

  • Governance: Taiwan has its own constitution, democratically elected leaders, and approximately 300,000 active troops.

  • International Recognition: Only a few countries recognize Taiwan, while most acknowledge the Chinese government in Beijing. The US, despite having no official ties, is legally required to provide Taiwan with defensive means.

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