Taiwan mobilises military as China conducts “punishment” drills

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File photo.

23rd May 2024 – (Taipei) Taiwan’s military has activated its forces and expressed confidence in its ability to defend the island, as China commenced two days of “punishment” drills around Taiwan on Thursday. The exercises, conducted in the Taiwan Strait and near Taiwan-controlled islands along the Chinese coast, came just three days after William Lai Ching-te assumed office as Taiwan’s new president, a figure detested by Beijing due to his perceived separatist stance.

China, which considers Taiwan its own territory, criticised Lai’s inauguration speech on Monday, where he called for an end to Chinese threats. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi referred to Lai as “disgraceful.” Despite Lai’s repeated offers for dialogue, China has rebuffed them, asserting that Taiwan’s future must be determined by its people and rejecting Beijing’s sovereignty claims.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced the commencement of joint military drills involving the army, navy, air force, and rocket force in areas surrounding Taiwan. These drills are taking place in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the north, south, and east of Taiwan, including areas near Taiwan-controlled islands such as Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin, according to the command’s statement.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence condemned the drills, stating that it had deployed forces to guard the island and was confident in its ability to protect its territory. A senior Taiwan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that these drills were anticipated by Taiwan and that the government had a comprehensive understanding of Chinese military movements.

The drills focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrols, precision strikes on key targets, and integrated operations within and beyond the island chain to test the combined combat capabilities of the forces, as stated by China’s military. The command added that these drills serve as a strong response to separatist actions by Taiwan independence forces and as a stern warning against interference and provocation by external powers.

Chinese state media released a map of the drill zones, encompassing five areas around Taiwan and the islands controlled by Taiwan near the Chinese coast. There was no sense of alarm in Taiwan, as its people have grown accustomed to Chinese military activities. On Thursday morning, the benchmark stock index in Taiwan experienced a slight decline of 0.3 percent.