China Stages 'punishment' Drills In Taiwanese President's 1st Week On The Job | CBC News

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A furious China launched “punishment” drills around Taiwan on Thursday in what it said was a response to “separatist acts,” sending up heavily armed warplanes and staging mock attacks as state media denounced newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te.

President Lai Ching-te has been branded by Beijing as a ‘separatist’ for his pro-independence viewsThomson Reuters

· Posted: May 23, 2024 9:11 AM EDT | Last Updated: May 23

People look at a Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft as it prepares to land at Hsinchu Air Base in Hsinchu, Taiwan, on Thursday. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)A furious China launched “punishment” drills around Taiwan on Thursday in what it said was a response to “separatist acts,” sending up heavily armed warplanes and staging mock attacks as state media denounced newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te.

The exercises, in the Taiwan Strait and around groups of Taiwan-controlled islands beside the Chinese coast, come just three days after Lai took office, a man Beijing detests as a “separatist.”

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, denounced Lai’s inauguration speech on Monday, in which he urged it to stop its threats, saying the two sides of the strait were “not subordinate to each other.”

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On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Lai “disgraceful.”

Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it had started joint military drills, involving the army, navy, air force and rocket force, in areas around Taiwan at 7:45 a.m. local time.

The drills are being held in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south and east of Taiwan, as well as areas around the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, the command said in a statement, the first time China’s exercises have included areas around these islands.

Condemnation across political spectrumTaiwan’s defence ministry said 15 Chinese navy ships, 16 coast guard and 33 aircraft were involved, but no live fire drills were held in any areas close to Taiwan.

The drills, dubbed “Joint Sword – 2024A,” are set to run for two days. However, unlike a similar “Joint Sword” exercise in April last year, these drills are tagged “A,” opening the door to potential followups.

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te, centre, listens to the briefing during his visit to inspect Taiwanese military in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, on Thursday. Lai was inaugurated earlier this week. (Chiang Ying-ying/The Associated Press)”This is also a strong punishment for the separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” the Chinese military said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry condemned the drills, saying that it had sent forces to areas around the island, with its air defences and land-based missile forces tracking targets, and that it was confident it could protect its territory.

“This pretext for conducting military exercises not only does not contribute to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but also shows its hegemonic nature at heart,” the ministry’s statement said.

Taiwan’s presidential office expressed regret that China was threatening the island’s democratic freedoms and regional peace and stability with its “unilateral military provocations,” but said Taiwan could ensure its security.

“I have confidence in the military,” Lai said at a military base in Taoyuan, near Taipei, the capital. “I also ask all my compatriots to rest assured.”

The main opposition Nationalist Party, which is generally seen as pro-China, also condemned Beijing’s actions. The Nationalists, also known as the KMT, called on “the opposite side of the [Taiwan Strait] to exercise restraint, cease unnecessary manoeuvres, avoid a conflict in the Taiwan Strait and maintain … peace and development between the sides.”

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Recent surge in drillsChina’s state broadcaster CCTV said Lai’s inauguration speech was “extremely harmful” and China’s countermeasures are “legitimate, legal and necessary.”

Lai’s speech was a confession of a desire for Taiwan independence and undermined peace and stability across the strait, it said.

Taiwan’s future can only be decided by China’s 1.4 billion people, not just Taiwan’s 23 million people, it said.

Over the past four years, China’s military has carried out almost daily activities near Taiwan, and last staged large-scale war games near the island in 2023 and 2022.

In August 2022, China launched live-fire military exercises after a visit to Taiwan from former U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, which was condemned by Beijing. That series of exercises, the scale of which was unprecedented, ran for four days, followed by several days of additional drills. 

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