Taiwan, a U.S. ally, vows defense as China showcases military power

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A Chinese military ship northwest of Pengjia Island, off the coast of northern Taiwan, on Thursday | TAIWAN COAST GUARD / VIA AFP-JIJI

On Thursday, China initiated a series of military exercises encircling Taiwan with naval vessels and aircraft, aimed at penalizing the self-ruled island following its new president’s pledge to defend democracy.

These two-day war games are part of China’s escalating intimidation campaign, which has included numerous large-scale military drills around Taiwan in recent years.

China’s military described this latest show of force as a “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” as the drills commenced.

China, under Communist Party rule since 1949, claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to reunite the island with the mainland, using force if necessary.

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The drills on Thursday and Friday involve aircraft and ships encircling Taiwan to test combat capabilities, according to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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In response, Taiwan deployed its air, ground, and sea forces, with the island’s defense ministry committing to “defend freedom.” Taiwan’s presidential spokeswoman condemned China’s actions as “provocative military behavior.”

These exercises followed the inauguration of Lai Ching-te as Taiwan’s new president. In his speech, Lai emphasized Taiwan’s commitment to democracy and defense, which China interpreted as a declaration of independence.

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“In the face of numerous threats and infiltration attempts from China, we must show our resolve to defend our nation,” Lai stated, celebrating a “glorious” era of democracy.

China, warning of strong reprisals to Lai’s speech, had previously labeled him a “dangerous separatist” who would bring “war and decline” to Taiwan.

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The drills, which started at 7:45 am (2345 GMT Wednesday), are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south, and east of the island, as explained by PLA Eastern Theater Command Naval Colonel Li Xi.

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As the “Joint Sword-2024A” drills began, commentary on state broadcaster CCTV called them “a powerful disciplinary action” against Taiwanese separatism.

China’s military released a series of posters showcasing its “cross-strait lethality,” featuring rockets, jets, and naval vessels alongside blood-stained text, declaring, “The weapon aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ to kill ‘independence’ is already in place.”

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