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China holds military drills around Taiwan as 'punishment'

GreenWatch Desk World News 2024-05-23, 11:23am

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China on Thursday launched two days of military drills to surround self-ruled Taiwan in what it said was "strong punishment" for its "separatist acts".

The war games come after Lai Ching-te was sworn in as Taiwan's new president this week and made an inauguration speech that China denounced as a"confession of independence".
Communist China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary.
Thursday and Friday's drills involve military aircraft and naval vessels surrounding Taiwan to test their combat capabilities, China's People's Liberation Army announced.
Taiwan responded quickly to China's announcement on Thursday morning, saying it had deployed sea, air and ground forces to "defend freedom".
"The Ministry of National Defence strongly condemned such irrational provocations and actions that undermine regional peace and stability," it said.
China has previously branded Lai a "dangerous separatist" who would bring "war and decline" to it, reports BSS.
On Tuesday, it warned of strong reprisals to Lai's inauguration speech, inwhich he vowed to continue to build up Taiwan's defence capabilities.
"In face of the many threats and attempts of infiltration from China, we mustdemonstrate our resolution to defend our nation," said Lai, 64.
- 'Kill independence' -
The drills, which began at 7:45 am (2345 GMT Wednesday), are taking place inthe Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of the island, PLA EasternTheater Command Naval Colonel Li Xi said.
They serve as a "strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwanindependence' forces and a stern warning against the interference andprovocation by external forces", Li said.
As the drills -- dubbed "Joint Sword-2024A" -- were launched, commentary onstate Chinese broadcaster CCTV declared them "a powerful disciplinary action"against Taiwanese separatism.
China's military put out a series of posters touting what it called its"cross-strait lethality". They featured rockets, jets and naval vessels nextto blood-stained text.
One showed rockets being fired at an island, while another showed tanksemerging from the sea.
"The weapon aimed at 'Taiwan independence' to kill 'independence' is alreadyin place," it declared.
- 'Strong message' -
Beijing, which split with Taipei at the end of a civil war in 1949, regardsTaiwan as a renegade province with which it must eventually be reunified.
Relations have plunged in recent years as China has stepped up pressure onit, periodically stoking worries about a potential invasion.
"(China) clearly feels it needs to send a very strong message to Lai andanyone who supports him", analyst Bill Bishop wrote in his influentialSinocism newsletter.
"I would be surprised if this new exercise is smaller and less threateningthan any last year," he said.
The last time China announced similar military exercises around Taiwan was inAugust 2023 after Lai, then vice president, stopped over in the United Stateson a visit to Paraguay.
Those drills also tested the PLA's ability "to seize control of air and seaspaces" and fight "in real combat conditions", according to state media.
Beijing at the time described them as a "stern warning".
They followed April drills that simulated the encirclement of the island,launched after Lai's predecessor Tsai Ing-wen met then-US House Speaker KevinMcCarthy in California.
China also launched major military exercises in 2022 after Nancy Pelosi, thenthe speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan.
World powers are keen to see as much stability as possible between China andTaiwan, not least because of the vital role it plays in the global economy.
The Taiwan Strait is one of the world's most important maritime tradearteries. Taiwan itself is a major tech manufacturer, particularly of vitalsemiconductors -- the tiny chips used in everything from smartphones tomissile systems.
The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in1979 but remains its most important ally and supplier of military hardware.
US President Joe Biden has said he does not support Taiwan's independence butalso that he would back sending forces to defend Taiwan. The official USposition on intervention is one of ambiguity.