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China Begins Military Drills Around Taiwan As 'Strong Punishment'

Beijing:

China on Thursday morning began two days of military drills around Taiwan, surrounding the island with navy vessels and aircraft as “strong punishment” for “separatist acts”, state media reported.

The military exercise comes three days after Lai Ching-te was sworn in as the self-ruled island’s new president.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has branded Lai a “dangerous separatist” who will bring “war and decline” to the island.

China, which split with Taiwan at the end of a civil war in 1949, regards the island as a renegade province with which it must eventually be reunified, and has refused to rule out using military force to do so.

Relations have plunged in recent years as China has stepped up pressure on the democratic island, periodically stoking worries about a potential invasion.

Thursday and Friday’s drills, code-named Joint Sword-2024A, will “focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrol, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets”, Xinhua reported.

“The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) started joint military drills surrounding the island of Taiwan from 7:45 a.m. Thursday (2345 GMT),” the news agency said, adding the drills were being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of the island.

The drills will also take place around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin, Xinhua said.

The news agency reported military spokesman Li Xi as saying 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 would 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”, Xinhua said.

‘Real combat conditions’

The last time China announced similar military exercises around Taiwan was in August last year after Lai, then vice president, stopped over in the United States on a visit to Paraguay.

Those drills also tested the PLA’s ability “to seize control of air and sea spaces” and fight “in real combat conditions”, according to state media.

Beijing at the time described them as a “stern warning”.

They followed on the heels of April drills that simulated the encirclement of the island, triggered after Lai’s predecessor Tsai Ing-wen met then-US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

China also launched major military exercises in 2022 after Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan.

The country also held drills when then-president Tsai later transited through the United States.

World powers are keen to see as much stability as possible between China and Taiwan, not least because of the vital role the island plays in the global economy.

The Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s most important maritime trade arteries, and the island itself is a major tech manufacturer, particularly of vital semiconductors — the tiny chips used in everything from smartphones to missile systems.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)