China’s military surrounds Taiwan, sending an unmistakable message to its new president

The Chinese armed forces initiated extensive military exercises around Taiwan on Thursday, shortly after the inauguration of the island’s newly elected president, Lai Ching-te.

China has conducted similar exercises around Taiwan in the past, but this recent event is particularly significant. It serves as an undeniable message to Taiwan and holds strategic advantages for Beijing. Additionally, it sets a negative tone for Chinese-Taiwanese relations at the start of a new president’s tenure.

Exercise “Joint Sword” commenced on Thursday morning and is set to last for a duration of two days. According to Chinese state media reports, the drills will primarily emphasize on joint sea-air combat readiness patrols, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets.

According to Taiwan’s military, China conducted a drill involving 33 aircraft, 16 Coast Guard vessels, and 15 Navy ships. The exercise not only took place around Taiwan’s main island but also included drills in the waters surrounding offshore islands like Kinmen, Matsuri, Wuqiu, and Dongyin.

The Chinese exercises are particularly characterized by fighter jets performing mock strikes with live ammunition and naval vessels engaging in drills, including frigates and destroyers. Taiwan’s defense ministry has shared a video condemning these actions, highlighting the different areas where Chinese forces are currently operating.

Taiwan’s military has taken action in response to Chinese activities, deploying ground, sea, and air forces to closely monitor the drills for any signs of escalation. The defense ministry of Taiwan has strongly condemned the drills, labeling them as “irrational provocations and actions that destabilize regional peace and stability.”

The ministry emphasized its unwavering determination and self-control. It emphasized that it is not seeking conflicts but is prepared to face them if necessary. Moreover, the ministry expressed confidence in its ability to protect national security.

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According to Chinese state media, the exercises were described by the Chinese military as a “forceful response to the separatist activities of Taiwan’s independence forces.” They also referred to them as a “serious cautionary message against the meddling and provocation of external forces,” including the United States and Japan.

Following the inauguration of Lai Ching-te on May 20, who previously served as the vice president under Tsai Ing-wen, Beijing’s rhetoric has taken on its typical tone.

Lai’s victory in Taiwan’s election was hailed as a significant milestone. It reflected the voters’ strong support for the Democratic Progressive Party and their preference for a firm stance on China and the preservation of Taiwanese autonomy. This remarkable win secures the party’s position in office for an unprecedented third consecutive term.

Chinese-Taiwanese tensions escalated during Tsai’s tenure, and Lai’s remarks suggest that he will continue Tsai’s approach towards Beijing. In his inaugural address, the newly elected president emphasized the importance of maintaining the status quo with China while advocating for peace as the sole viable option. However, it is worth noting that Beijing has consistently stated its willingness to resort to force in order to achieve its objectives.

“In his inaugural speech, Lai addressed the increasing pressure from China on the island, emphasizing the need to firmly defend our nation against the numerous threats and infiltration attempts,” Lai said.

Chinese media has declared that Lai has surpassed previous Taiwanese presidents labeled as “separatists” by China, due to his long-held contempt and this recent incident.

According to a spokesperson from China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, the drills were partly a response to Lai’s inauguration speech and served as a form of punishment.

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The recent Chinese drills in the vicinity of Taiwan’s inauguration have raised concerns among Taiwanese and US officials. It is evident that China has the capability to enclose Taiwan at any given moment, with the intention of pressuring its people to acknowledge Beijing’s authority.

According to Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general and strategist specializing in warfare, Beijing’s motive behind this exercise goes beyond intimidation or displaying its military might. It serves the purpose of normalizing “large-scale activity around Taiwan” and creating deception about its future intentions. Ryan shared this insight on X.

According to the speaker, the exercise not only bullies and coerces Taiwan’s government but also implies that unification is unavoidable. However, the speaker emphasizes that this is not the case, comparing the Chinese Communist Party’s tactics to those used by Putin in Ukraine.

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