Chinese military practice control, occupation as part of 'strong punishment' drill around Taiwan

China's military on Friday tested its ability to “seize power” as the People's Liberation Army said its forces kicked off a second day of large-scale exercises around Taiwan in retaliation to its new President Lai Ching-te's remarks rejecting Beijing's sovereignty claims over the self-ruled island.
Chinese military practice control, occupation as part of 'strong punishment' drill around Taiwan
Chinese military practice control, occupation as part of 'strong punishment' drill around Taiwan

Beijing/Taipei | China's military on Friday tested its ability to “seize power” as the People's Liberation Army said its forces kicked off a second day of large-scale exercises around Taiwan in retaliation to its new President Lai Ching-te's remarks rejecting Beijing's sovereignty claims over the self-ruled island.

Li Xi, the spokesperson for the Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), said the combined forces of the army, navy, air force, and rocket forces continued joint drills surrounding Taiwan Island focussing on practicing control and occupation of the area on the concluding day of the two-day drill.

“Integrated operations inside and outside the island chain are being conducted to test the command's capabilities to jointly take control of the battlefield and launch joint strikes, and to seize control of crucial areas,” he said in a press release here.

Separately, the Chinese Coast Guard said it focussed its drills in the Taiwan Strait, the narrow waters that separate the Chinese mainland and Taiwan on verification and identification as well as warning and expulsion of any foreign vessels in times of conflict.

Military analysts say the PLA, which has been carrying out aggressive military exercises since the visit of the then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August 2022, practiced a possible takeover of the estranged island through military action at lightning speed.

China, which views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland even by force, may launch its offensive in 2027, according to top Taiwan politicians.

The PLA Eastern Theatre Command, which launched the two-day exercise on Thursday, said, "The drills 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." A 3D video of simulated strikes was released by the command, showing targets in the Taiwanese cities of Taipei, Hualien, and Kaohsiung hit by the PLA's air, naval, and rocket forces, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

According to Taiwan's defence ministry, 49 PLA aircraft, 19 PLA naval vessels, and seven coastguard vessels were detected operating around Taiwan till Friday morning.

It said 35 aircraft crossed the median line – a notional midpoint in the Taiwan Strait – and entered the southwestern air defence identification zone. The island's armed forces monitored the situation and responded accordingly, it said.

The number of aircraft detected near the island on Friday was lower than the PLA's first day of drills compared to the previous drills last April, the Post report said.

Reports from Taiwan said the PLA drills have not disturbed the normal life of its 23 million people who went about with their routine.

The PLA's drill poses the first real test for the veteran Taiwanese politician Lai in managing tensions with Beijing, which has refused his offer to talk and to resume cross-strait tourism and student exchanges, a CNN report from Taipei said.

Domestically, he is facing chaos in the legislature, where opposition parties who favour closer ties to China hold a majority, and have pushed to subject his administration to tighter scrutiny, the report said.

Lai, 64, also known as William Lai, succeeded his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleague Tsai Ing-wen after winning the popular vote in the January Presidential election this year. He was sworn in as the president at a ceremony held in Taipei on Monday.

In his no-holds-barred inaugural speech, Lai, regarded as a radical, called on China to stop threatening the island and promised to uphold the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. He said his government would adhere to the four commitments (of national sovereignty, democracy, and freedom) and maintain the status quo without being overbearing or servile.

His pro-independence speech riled China.

While the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended the joint military drill as legitimate and necessary, the Chinese Defence Ministry on Friday launched a blistering attack on Lai saying that he is driving Taiwan towards war.

“The military drills around Taiwan aim to crack down on the arrogance of 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces and deter the interference and intervention of external forces,” Chinese defence spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian told media here.

Wu said as soon as Lai took office, he “seriously challenged the one-China principle by touting the two-state theory" and attempted to seek "Taiwan independence" by force and by relying on external forces, pushing the Taiwan compatriots towards the danger of war.

This is an act of playing with fire, and those who play with fire will end up getting burned, he warned.

"Taiwan is China's Taiwan, and how to resolve the Taiwan question is a matter for over 1.4 billion Chinese people," Wu said, adding that the PLA will defend China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity with concrete actions.

"With each provocation of the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces, our countermeasures will advance one step further until the complete reunification of the motherland is realised," he was quoted by the official media as saying.

A Friday commentary by the PLA Daily targeted Lai's inauguration speech, which it said was “unprecedented” in its inclination towards Taiwan's independence, and pledged to “respond in language [separatists] understand”.

The two-day military exercise is aimed at punishing Taiwanese separatist forces like Lai, the PLA Daily said.

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