China Conducts Military Drills Near Taiwan to Pressure New President

China Conducts Military Drills Near Taiwan to Pressure New President

China's military conducted a second day of war games around Taiwan on Friday, designed to test its capability to "seize power" and control key areas.

These exercises, named "Joint Sword - 2024A," were initiated as a punitive measure against Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, just three days after his inauguration. The drills included the mock bombing of foreign vessels and occurred in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast. Taiwan condemned the actions.

China views Taiwan as its territory and labels Lai a "separatist." In his inauguration speech on Monday, Lai urged Beijing to stop its threats and asserted that the two sides of the strait are "not subordinate to each other," prompting strong criticism from China.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army stated that the drills aimed to "test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas."

A senior Taiwan security official reported that Chinese bombers practiced mock attacks on foreign vessels near the eastern end of the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines, as part of an effort to seize "total control" of areas west of the first island chain—a strategic region extending from Japan through Taiwan to Borneo.

Additionally, several Chinese coast guard boats conducted "harassment" drills off Taiwan's east coast, including mock inspections of civilian ships.

China's Coast Guard confirmed it held "law enforcement drills" in waters east of Taiwan, focusing on verification, identification, warning, and repulsion.

An animated video released by the Chinese theatre command on WeChat depicted missiles targeting Taiwanese cities Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Hualien, ending with the phrase "Sacred weapons to kill independence."

In response, Taiwan's armed forces mobilized to monitor and shadow Chinese forces, with the defense ministry publishing images of armed F-16s patrolling the skies and Chinese coast guard vessels and Jiangdao-class corvettes. As of 6 a.m. on Friday, Taiwan's defense ministry reported detecting 49 Chinese military aircraft, 19 navy, and seven coast guard ships, with 28 aircraft crossing the strait's median line. The closest Chinese aircraft approached 40 nautical miles from Keelung, a northern city and navy base.

Despite repeated offers for talks by Lai, Beijing has rebuffed them, maintaining that only Taiwan's people can decide their future and rejecting Beijing's sovereignty claims. Taiwan, accustomed to Chinese military threats, continued with normal life despite the drills, which did not cause undue alarm.

Taiwanese media reported on the drills but also focused on contested parliament reforms that sparked large protests.

On China's Weibo social media site, the "Eastern Theatre" was the top search item, with widespread support for the drills and discussions about "the return of Taiwan." The People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, reiterated that China's territory cannot be divided, the country cannot be thrown into chaos, and its people cannot be separated. The paper warned that Lai's actions would accelerate the "destruction" of pro-independence forces in Taiwan.

Analysts, regional diplomats, and senior Taiwan officials noted that the scale of these drills was smaller than similar exercises in 2022, and while anticipated, they still posed a risk of accidents or miscalculations. They indicated that Beijing was issuing a calibrated warning, demonstrating that Chinese forces could quickly implement a blockade if necessary to pressure Lai.

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