China says war games around Taiwan to test ability to ‘seize power’

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 3:24 pm

China’s military has begun its second day of war games around Taiwan, with drills that it said were to test the armed forces’ ability to “seize power” and control key areas of the self-ruled democracy.

As the first day of exercises, codenamed Joint Sword-2024A, got under way on Thursday, China described them as “punishment” following the inauguration speech by Taiwan’s new president William Lai Ching-te in which he said Taiwan was a “sovereign and independent nation with sovereignty resting in the people”.

Lai also stressed Taiwan would make no concessions on its freedoms and called on Beijing to “stop its aggression against Taiwan”.

The drills are part of an escalating campaign of political and military intimidation by Beijing, which claims the island as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goal of unification.

The two-day exercises are testing the “capability of joint seizure of power, joint strikes and control of key territories,” said Colonel Li Xi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command.

Taiwan mobilised its armed forces to monitor and shadow Chinese activity as the drills got under way.

On Friday, the island’s Ministry of Defence published pictures of F-16s, armed with live missiles, patrolling the skies.

It also showed images of Chinese coastguard vessels, and other navy ships taking part in the drills near the Pengjia Islet north of Taiwan.

Footage published by China’s military, meanwhile, showed soldiers streaming out of a building to battle stations and jets taking off to a rousing martial tune.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese sailors had called out to their Taiwanese counterparts at sea, warning them against “resisting reunification by force”

Blunt language

Beijing considers Lai a “troublemaker” and a “separatist”. Like his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen, he says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

At Thursday’s regular press briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin used the kind of blunt language usually used by the country’s propaganda outlets.

“Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great … trend of China achieving complete unification,” Wang told reporters.

Beijing’s Xinhua news agency and ruling party newspaper, the People’s Daily, both ran editorials hailing the drills on Friday, lashing out at Lai’s “treacherous behaviour” and promising a “severe blow”.

The United Nations has called on all sides to avoid escalation, while the United States – Taiwan’s strongest ally and military backer – “strongly” urged China to act with restraint.

The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing China’s civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists, who founded the People’s Republic of China.

The drills are taking place in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of the island, as well as areas around the Taipei-administered islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin.


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