As Taiwan Welcomes New Leader, China Flexes Muscles

Island scrambles jets after China conducts military exercises as a 'powerful punishment'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2024 5:41 AM CDT
As Taiwan Welcomes New Leader, China Flexes Muscles
Taiwan's new president, Lai Ching-te, right, and former President Tsai Ing-wen wave during Lai's inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday. In his inauguration speech, Lai urged China to stop its military intimidation against the self-governed island Beijing claims as its own territory.   (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Taiwan scrambled jets and put missile, naval, and land units on alert Thursday over Chinese military exercises being conducted around the self-governing island democracy, where a new president took office this week. China's military said its two-day exercises around Taiwan were punishment for separatist forces seeking independence, per the AP. Beijing claims the island is part of China's national territory, and the People's Liberation Army sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwan's defenses and seek to intimidate its people, who firmly back their de facto independence. China's "irrational provocation has jeopardized regional peace and stability," the island's Defense Ministry said. It said Taiwan will seek no conflicts but "will not shy away from one."

"This pretext for conducting military exercises not only does not contribute to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but also shows its hegemonic nature at heart," the ministry's statement said. In his inauguration address on Monday, new Taiwan President Lai Ching-te called for Beijing to stop its military intimidation and pledged to "neither yield [to] nor provoke" the mainland Communist Party leadership. Lai has said he seeks dialogue with Beijing while maintaining Taiwan's current status and avoiding conflicts that could draw in the US (the island's chief ally) and other regional partners such as Japan and Australia. On Weibo, the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command said the land, navy, and air exercises around Taiwan are meant to test the navy and air capabilities of the PLA units, as well as their joint strike abilities to hit targets and win control of the battlefield.

"This is also a powerful punishment for the separatist forces seeking 'independence' and a serious warning to external forces for interference and provocation," the statement said. The PLA also released a map of the intended exercise area, which surrounds Taiwan's main island at five different points, as well as places like Matsu and Kinmen, outlying islands that are closer to the Chinese mainland than Taiwan. While China has termed the exercises as punishment for Taiwan's election result, the Democratic Progressive Party has now run the island's government for more than a decade, although the pro-China Nationalist Party took a one-seat majority in the parliament. More here.

(More Taiwan stories.)

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