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Sunday June 16, 2024

China ends military drills around Taiwan

By AFP
May 26, 2024
A naval vessel sailing at sea during the Joint Sword-2024A milirary drill at an unknown location, in an undated handout photograph released on May 24, 2024 by the Eastern Theater Command of Chinas Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). — AFP File
A naval vessel sailing at sea during the "Joint Sword-2024A" milirary drill at an unknown location, in an undated handout photograph released on May 24, 2024 by the Eastern Theater Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). — AFP File

BEIJING: China has ended two days of military drills around Taiwan that saw jets loaded with live munitions and warships practise seizing and isolating the self-ruled island.

The exercises simulated strikes targeting Taiwan’s leaders as well as its ports and airports to “cut off the island’s ‘blood vessels’”, Chinese military analysts told state media.

Beijing considers the democratic island part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to bring it under its control.

The war games kicked off Thursday morning, as aircraft and naval vessels surrounded Taiwan to conduct mock attacks against “important targets”, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Codenamed “Joint Sword-2024A”, the exercises were launched three days after Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te took office and made an inauguration speech that China denounced as a “confession of independence”.

Beijing’s defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Friday that Lai was pushing Taiwan “into a perilous situation of war and danger”. “Every time ‘Taiwan independence’ provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further” until “complete reunification” is achieved, he said.

The origin of the dispute dates back to the Chinese Civil War, when nationalists fled to Taiwan following their defeat at the hands of the Communist Party in 1949.

On Saturday, Taiwan’s presidency said it had “a full grasp of the situation and appropriate responses to ensure national security”.

A total of 111 Chinese aircraft and dozens of naval vessels took part in the drills over two days, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.

On Friday evening, China’s army published images of the drills’ “highlights”, featuring missile-launching trucks, fighter jets taking off and naval officers looking through binoculars at Taiwanese ships.

Meng Xiangqing from Beijing’s National Defense University told state news agency Xinhua that People’s Liberation Army vessels “were getting closer to the island than ever before”.

Beijing launched similar exercises in August and April last year after Taiwanese leaders visited the United States.

China also launched major drills in 2022 after Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan.

The scale of the most recent ones was “significant, but is nowhere near as big, it seems, as last August’s”, Wen-Ti Sung, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, told AFP.

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

Tong Zhen, from China’s Academy of Military Sciences, told Xinhua the drills “mainly targeted the ringleaders and political centre of ‘Taiwan independence’, and involved simulated precision strikes on key political and military targets”.

The United States, Taiwan’s strongest partner and military backer, on Thursday “strongly” urged China to act with restraint.