Beijing warns Taipei as military drills intensify near territory


China said that Taiwan’s leadership was pushing the self-ruled island into war and warned of further “countermeasures”, as Beijing conducted military drills around the territory.

Chinese warships and fighter jets yesterday surrounded Taiwan on the second day of drills that Beijing said were a test of its ability to seize the island, days after its new president was sworn in.

Beijing’s military kicked off the two-day war games on Thursday morning, encircling democratic Taiwan with naval vessels and military aircraft as it vowed the blood of “independence forces” on the island would flow.

The exercises were launched three days after 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 yesterday said Lai “has seriously challenged the one-China principle... pushing our compatriots in Taiwan into a perilous situation of war”.

“Every time ‘Taiwan independence’ provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further, until the complete reunification of the motherland is achieved,” he said.

The drills are part of an escalating campaign by China in which it has carried out a series of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan in recent years.

They are testing the “capability of joint seizure of power... and control of key territories”, Li Xi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command, said yesterday.

China, which split with Taiwan at the end of a civil war 75 years ago, regards the island as a renegade province with which it must eventually be reunified.

The dispute has long made the Taiwan Strait one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, and this week’s events have stoked fears that China may use military force to bring the island under mainland rule.

The United States, Taiwan’s strongest ally and military backer, “strongly” urged China on Thursday to act with restraint. The United Nations called for all sides to avoid escalation.

As the drills – Codenamed “Joint Sword-2024A” – got underway, China said they would serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”.

Footage published by China’s military showed soldiers streaming out of a building to battle stations and jets taking off to a rousing martial tune.

The drills 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. — AFP

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