In response to transit stops made by Taiwan’s Vice-President, William Lai in the U.S, China has launched military drills around the island.
Taiwan disclosed that 42 warplanes had entered its air defence zone since 9am local time (01:00 GMT) on Saturday, August 19, 2023, and that eight Chinese vessels had also participated in the exercises.
Twenty-six of the warplanes involved crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the island’s ministry of defence revealed in a statement.
This “stern warning” as China called it, came few moments after Beijing voiced its displeasure over Lai’s U.S stops.
Lai returned from a trip to Paraguay on Friday, August 18, 2023. His trip entailed brief stops in New York and San Francisco.
China criticized the U.S stops while vowing to take “resolute measures … to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
According to Chinese state news agency, an official from the Communist party’s Taiwan Work Office “strongly condemned” Lai’s trip, calling it a “new provocative move” meant to “further collude with the United States.”
“Lai’s latest ‘stopover’ … was a disguise he used to sell out the interests of Taiwan in order to seek gains in the local election through dishonest moves,” the news media reported the official as saying.
“Lai’s deeds have proven that he is an out-and-out troublemaker who will push Taiwan to the dangerous brink of war and bring deep troubles to Taiwan compatriots”, the report added.
Also, the news agency announced that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “launched joint air and sea patrols and military exercises of the navy and air force around the island of Taiwan” on Saturday.
The drills, per the news report, were meant to test the PLA’s ability “to seize control of air and sea spaces” and fight “in real combat conditions.”
They were also intended to serve as “a stern warning to the collusion of Taiwan independence separatists with foreign elements and their provocations”, it added.
China claims that Taiwan is part of its territory and has vowed to take it one day, by force if necessary.
On its part, Taiwan strongly condemned “such irrational and provocative behaviour” stating that it would dispatch “appropriate forces” to respond “with practical actions.”
In a statement, Taiwan’s defence ministry noted, “The National Army is… monitoring and using reconnaissance methods to strictly control (the situation).”
“Conducting a military exercise this time under a pretext not only does not help the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but also highlights [China’s] militaristic mentality and confirms the hegemonic nature of its military expansion.”Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence
China Accused Of Trying To “Shape” Taiwan’s Upcoming Election
Moreover, Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister accused China of seeking to influence Taiwan’s upcoming election. Wu made these remarks on the ministry’s official X account after Chinese military exercises were launched around the island.
“The PRC has made it clear it wants to shape Taiwan’s coming national election,” Wu noted.
“Well, it’s up to our citizens to decide, not the bully next door,” he added.
Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry also condemned China’s military exercises, adding that Beijing has used “various intimidating speeches and fake news… to openly intervene and interfere in the democratic election process in our country.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns in the strongest terms China’s authoritarian government’s brutal efforts to interfere in the election,” it added.
Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election is slated to take place in January, 2024.
In the past year, Beijing has stepped up political and military pressures against Taiwan, launching near-daily warplanes incursions and vessels around the self-governed island.
China previously launched major military exercises after Nancy Pelosi, then U.S House Speaker, visited Taiwan last year and again when President Tsai Ing-wen met with U.S House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy in California.