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China conducts military drills around Taiwan as ‘Strong Punishment’

China conducts military drills around Taiwan as ‘Strong Punishment’

China conducts military drills around Taiwan as ‘Strong Punishment’

China conducts military drills around Taiwan as ‘Strong Punishment’

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  • Taiwan’s defense ministry denounced the drills as “irrational provocations”.
  • The exercises simulated a full-scale attack, targeting Taipei-controlled islands Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin.
  • The drills also included a component to the east of Taiwan, which has long served as its military redoubt.
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China has commenced two days of military exercises around Taiwan, with its military labeling them as “strong punishment” for the self-ruled island’s “separatist acts”. The drills followed three days after the inauguration of President William Lai, who urged China to cease threatening the island and acknowledge the existence of its democracy.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province destined to fall under Beijing’s control, while the island perceives itself as distinct. Taiwan’s defense ministry denounced the Chinese drills as “irrational provocations”. Taipei’s defense ministry dispatched naval, air, and ground forces to “defend the [island’s] sovereignty”.

Thursday’s drills, according to Taiwanese military experts, for the first time simulated a full-scale attack rather than an economic blockade. The exercises occurred all around the main island and, for the first time, also targeted the Taipei-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin, which lie close to the Chinese coast, as per maps released by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The drills also incorporated a component to the east of Taiwan – the island’s rugged east coast on the other side of a mountain range has long served as its military redoubt.

Taiwan has constructed much of its hardened military infrastructure along this coast, including a large underground airbase inside a mountain near the city of Hualien. This area is also close to Japan’s southern islands and serves as a natural resupply route.

By sending naval and air patrols to the east of Taiwan, China aims to demonstrate to Taipei that its east is now exposed to Chinese attack and to show the Americans that any effort to resupply or reinforce Taiwan from the east is vulnerable to Chinese missile strikes and naval attack.

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

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

The PLA stated that Thursday’s drills were a “strong punishment for the separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces.” Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry insisted that the drills were a “necessary and legitimate move” to safeguard national sovereignty.

“I need to stress that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. This is both a fact based on history and the true status quo. This will not change in the future. Taiwan independence is doomed to fail,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

In his inauguration address last Monday, Mr. Lai called on China to “stop threatening Taiwan”. Beijing denounced the speech, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing Mr. Lai as “disgraceful”. After Mr. Lai’s election victory last January, Beijing issued a statement insisting that “Taiwan is part of China”. It has also repeatedly rebuffed Mr. Lai’s offers for talks. Beijing has previously labeled Mr. Lai a “separatist” and “troublemaker” over remarks he made in the past supporting Taiwanese independence. Taiwan’s defense ministry said the drills on Thursday “highlight [Beijing’s] militaristic mentality.”

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