Monday, June 24, 2024

‘Strong punishment’ – China initiates military drills around Taiwan

(Al Jazeera Media Network) China has started military drills surrounding the self-governing island of Taiwan, according to Chinese state media.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army started the drills at 7:45 am (23:45 GMT) on Thursday in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south, and east of Taiwan, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin.

Military spokesman Li Xi said the joint exercises were a “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” Xinhua reported.

The show of strength comes three days after Taiwan’s new president, William Lai Ching-te, took his oath of office on Monday and called on Beijing to stop its “intimidation” of the island, which China claims as its own.

Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goal of unification and reacted angrily to the inauguration of Lai, a man whom it considers a “troublemaker” and a “separatist”.

In his first address to the public after taking his oath, Lai said that “the Republic of China, Taiwan, is a sovereign and independent nation with sovereignty resting in the people” and stressed that his government would make no concessions on its democracy and freedoms.

He called on Beijing to “stop its aggression against Taiwan” and strive to “maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region.”

The following day, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out.

“The ugly acts of Lai Ching-te and others who betray the nation and their ancestors is disgraceful,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted Wang as saying at a foreign ministers meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan.

Nothing can stop China from achieving “reunification” and bringing Taiwan “back to the motherland,” he added. “All Taiwan independence separatists will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history.”

In an editorial on Wednesday, the state-run Global Times tabloid described Lai’s first speech as president as “vile behaviour” and claimed his speech was “filled with hostility and provocation, lies, and deception.”

The drills that began on Thursday focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrols, precision strikes on key targets, and integrated operations inside and outside the island chain to test the “joint real combat capabilities” of the forces, China’s military said.

It did not say how long the drills would last.

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