Chinese military launches ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan after new President’s pro-independence speech

Advertisement

The Chinese military on Thursday launched a massive two-day “punishment drills” surrounding Taiwan, involving its army, navy, air force and rocket force, in retaliation for “separatist acts” after the self-ruled island’s new President Lai Ching-te rejected Beijing’s sovereignty claims over it. The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) started joint military drills surrounding the island of Taiwan at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force. Li Xi, spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theatre Command, which looks after the Taiwan Strait said, “The drills also serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external force.”

The drills are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south and east of Taiwan Island, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin. Lai, 64, also known as William Lai, who succeeded his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleague Tsai Ing-wen after winning the popular vote in the January Presidential election this year, was sworn in as the president at a ceremony held in Taipei on Monday.

Advertisement

In his no-holds-barred inaugural speech, Lai called on China to stop threatening the island, promised to uphold the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and called on Beijing to work jointly for peace. Lai said his government will adhere to the four commitments (of national sovereignty, democracy, and freedom) and maintain the status quo without being overbearing or servile. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin countered Lai by saying: “Taiwan independence is a dead end.”

“Regardless of the pretext or the banner under which it is pursued, the push for Taiwan independence is destined to fail,” Wang told a media briefing here, in reaction to Lai’s remarks. No matter how the political situation on the Taiwan island changes, it will not change the historical and legal facts that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, and the historical trend that China will eventually be reunified and will inevitably be reunified, Wang said.

China claims that the breakaway nation of Taiwan is part of it and makes it mandatory for all the countries having diplomatic ties with it to follow the ‘One China’ policy which effectively states that Taiwan is part of China. Li Xi said military services including the army, navy, air force and rocket force of the theatre command are being mobilised to conduct the joint drills, code-named Joint Sword-2024A, from Thursday to Friday.

The drills focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrol, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets, Li said, adding that the exercises involve the patrol of vessels and planes closing in on areas around the island of Taiwan and integrated operations inside and outside the island chain to test the joint real combat capabilities of the forces of the command.

The spokesperson said the drills also serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces. The Taiwanese defence ministry in a statement on Thursday called the drills a provocation that disrupts regional peace and stability, adding the naval, air and ground forces are standing by, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Thursday’s drills are reportedly similar to the massive mobilisation of forces by China around Taiwan as a show of strength to object to the visit to the then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island in Aug 2022. Pelosi is the first highest-ranking American official to visit Taipei to show solidarity. During the 2022 military drills lasting several days, some of the missiles China fired overflew Taiwan and raised concerns about the likelihood of Beijing’s military action against Taipei.