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China launches major naval exercise to “punish” Taiwan’s new president

In response to the election of a pro-independence president in Taiwan, China has launched a series of large-scale naval exercises “to serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces” and a “serious warning to external authorities”. “forces” like the United States. According to Western analysts, the exercises also give China a way to practice controlling the waterways around the island, in case its leaders ever decide to establish a blockade or seek reunification by force.

Last month, 40 percent of Taiwan voters selected DPP candidate Lai Ching-te, a self-described supporter of Taiwanese independence, in a three-way race. The other two candidates, Hou Yu-ih and Ko Wen-je, emphasized peaceful and stable relations with China; they lost with 33 and 26 percent of the vote (respectively).

In his inaugural speech this week, Lai called for dialogue, peace and stability in relations with Beijing, and offered to resume cross-Strait tourism and student exchanges with mainland China (two small-scale diplomatic concessions). But he also vowed to defend Taiwanese democracy and stated that “the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China are not subordinate to each other,” prompting condemnation from Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of the People’s Republic of China.

“Our will to resolve the Taiwan question and achieve national reunification is rock solid, our ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is indestructible, and our actions against ‘Taiwan independence’ secession and interference foreigners are determined and strong,” Chen Binhua responded. , spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “We will never tolerate or condone any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist act.”

In response, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command mobilized its forces for a joint exercise around Taiwan, “focusing on joint sea and air combat readiness patrols, joint takeover of comprehensive control of the battlefield, joint precision strike against key objectives and other topics”. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry counted 15 PLA Navy warships, 16 Chinese coast guard and 42 PLA military aircraft near Taiwan and its outlying islands.

China has already held massive drills in response to Taiwanese political developments, including a much larger exercise in 2022, following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.

This time, the Chinese Coast Guard sent ships within a few miles of the Taiwanese-controlled Wuqiu and Dongyin islands, the first time the GCC has entered within the boundaries of these Taiwanese-claimed outlying territories, according to Chinese officials.

Other aspects of the exercises were geared toward high-level conflict, including ground attack drills involving multiple Chinese destroyers, amphibious assault exercises, and fighter-bomber practice drills. “The PLA has a full arsenal available to resolve the Taiwan question if the prospects for peaceful reunification no longer exist,” warned Chinese state media Global Times.

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