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HSINCHU: Two people ride a motorcycle as a Taiwanese Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jet approaches for landing at an air force base in Hsinchu in northern Taiwan on May 23, 2024. --AFP
HSINCHU: Two people ride a motorcycle as a Taiwanese Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jet approaches for landing at an air force base in Hsinchu in northern Taiwan on May 23, 2024. --AFP

China holds war games, vows blood of Taiwan ‘independence forces’

Taipei activates military, coast guard in response to Beijing’s drills

BEIJING: China on Thursday encircled Taiwan with naval vessels and military aircraft in war games, as it vowed the blood of “independence forces” on the self-ruled island would flow. The two days of drills are part of an escalating campaign of intimidation by China that has seen it carry out a series of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan in recent years. The drills come after Lai Ching-te was sworn in as Taiwan’s new president this week and made an inauguration speech that China denounced as a “confession of independence”.

As the drills got underway, China’s military said they would serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”. Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin then delivered a warning that included language more commonly used by China’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.

China - governed by the Communist Party since 1949 - claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to bring the democratic island under its rule, by force if necessary. Thursday and Friday’s drills - codenamed “Joint Sword-2024A” - involve aircraft and ships surrounding the island to test their combat capabilities, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said.

Taiwan responded by deploying air, ground and sea forces, with the island’s defense ministry vowing to “defend freedom”. President Lai said he would “stand on the front line” to defend Taiwan in a speech on Thursday afternoon, without directly referring to the ongoing drills.

“Faced with external challenges and threats, we will continue to defend the values of freedom and democracy, and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” he said. China has repeatedly branded Lai a “dangerous separatist” who would bring “war and decline” to the island.

Beijing was further incensed with his inauguration speech on Monday in which he hailed a “glorious” era for Taiwan’s democracy. The drills, which began on Thursday morning, 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.

China’s military put out a series of posters touting what it called its “cross-strait lethality”. They featured rockets, jets and naval vessels next to blood-stained text. “The weapon aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ to kill ‘independence’ is already in place,” it declared.

A Chinese military expert told CCTV that the drills were partly aimed at rehearsing an economic blockade of the island. Zhang Chi, a professor at Beijing’s China National Defense University, said the drills aimed to “strangle” Taiwan’s critical Kaohsiung port to “severely impact” its foreign trade.

Meanwhile, fighter jets took off from a Taiwan airbase Thursday as the self-ruled island dispatched aerial and naval forces in response to China’s launch of military drills, while Taipei’s coast guard warned off Chinese vessels. Beijing commenced two days of war games, dubbed “Joint Sword-2024A”, as a “strong punishment” for Taiwan’s “separatist acts”.

They come after the island swore in President Lai Ching-te, who said in his inaugural speech on Monday that Taiwan “must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation”.

China - which claims Taiwan as part of its territory - has denounced Lai’s speech as a “confession of independence”. Beijing’s drills began Thursday morning and are taking place in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of the island, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said.

In response, Taiwan’s armed forces dispatched “aerial, naval and land assets”, Taipei’s defense ministry said in a statement. Four fighter jets took off at around 1 pm (0500 GMT) from a military airbase in Hsinchu, an hour southwest of Taipei. The defense ministry said in a late afternoon press briefing that it had detected 15 Chinese warships and 16 coast guard vessels around Taiwan, while 33 warplanes had “entered our response zone”. — AFP

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