China Launches 'Punishment' Drills Around Taiwan After New President Lai Ching-Te's Pro-Independence Speech

China Launches 'Punishment' Drills Around Taiwan After New President Lai Ching-Te's Pro-Independence Speech

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. The drills involved the People's Liberation Army, navy, air force, and the rocket force, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

PTIUpdated: Friday, May 24, 2024, 01:58 AM IST
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China Launches 'Punishment' Drills Around Taiwan After New President Lai Ching-Te's Pro-Independence Speech | | X

Beijing/Taipei, May 23: The Chinese military on Thursday launched a two-day "punishment drills" surrounding Taiwan 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. The drills involved the People's Liberation Army, navy, air force, and the rocket force, 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. The Taiwan Defence Ministry said it has dispatched aircraft, warships, and kept ready shore-based missile systems to respond accordingly in response to PLA drills. The Armed Forces adopted joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance measures to uphold strict vigilance, it said.

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.

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 said his government would 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 on Thursday defended the joint military drills surrounding Taiwan as legitimate and necessary and fully in line with international law and practice. It's completely legitimate and necessary for the PLA to conduct joint military drills around Taiwan to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, strongly punish the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces for seeking "independence," and seriously warn against interference and provocation by external forces, spokesperson Wang told a media briefing here.

Wang said that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. This is not only a historical fact, but also a real status quo. It will never change in the future. "Taiwan independence" leads nowhere, he said. All "Taiwan independence" separatist acts will be hit head-on by more than 1.4 billion Chinese people, and all "Taiwan independence" separatist forces will be hit hard in the face of the historical trend of China's complete reunification, he added.

Asked about comments by Deputy Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command Lt. Gen. Stephen Sklenka said that the drills by the PLA aimed at practicing invasion of Taiwan, Wang said the US should stop emboldening and supporting the 'Taiwan independence' forces and stop interfering in China's internal affairs. "Any act that endangers China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity will be resolutely and forcefully counterattacked by China," Wang said.

Gen. Sklenka was quoted as saying in a speech at Canberra that in the past exercises, the PLA simulated a maritime and air blockade of Taiwan, amphibious assaults and counter-intervention operations and continued exercise the features for a potential invasion of Taiwan. Zhang Chi, an associate professor at the National Defence University in the mainland, told state broadcaster CCTV on Thursday that the PLA forces are practicing the blockade of Taiwan.

“Once it is besieged and blocked, it can easily lead to economic collapse and become a dead island. This time, the PLA’s exercise focused on practicing the new model of blockade,” he 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.

Li 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. 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.

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