China launches military maneuvers around Taiwan

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Taiwanese Air Force planes during the inauguration ceremony of the new president, Lai Ching-te, in Taipei, May 20, 2024. ANN WANG / REUTERS

China launched military maneuvers around Taiwan on Thursday, May 23, three days after the inauguration speech of the new Taiwanese president, Lai Ching-te. It’s about a “severe punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces”according to Li Xi, the spokesperson for the Chinese army’s eastern theater command, cited by the official Xinhua news agency.

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“The exercises are taking place in the Taiwan Strait, in the north, south and east of the island of Taiwan, as well as in areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin”indicated Chine Nouvelle, specifying that the exercises, planned for two days, had started at 7:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m. Paris time).

These maneuvers, called “Joint Sword-2024A”, involve the army, navy, air force and rocket unit, according to Li Xi. The objective is to “test the joint real combat capabilities of the command forces”he also indicated, through “sea-to-air combat readiness patrols, taking control of the entire battlefield and precision strikes on key targets”.

Taiwan has described “provocations and irrational actions” Chinese military maneuvers. “The Ministry of National Defense strongly condemned these provocations and irrational actions which harm regional peace and stability. We deployed sea, air and land forces in response (…) to defend freedom, democracy and sovereignty” of Taiwan, the ministry said.

“Confession of Taiwan’s independence”

This week, China described the inauguration speech of the new Taiwanese president as“confession of Taiwan’s independence” and threatened him with “retaliation”. Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, when nationalists took refuge on the island after their defeat by communist forces in the Chinese civil war on the mainland. Beijing considers the democratically governed island to be part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

Mr. Lai, whom Beijing described as “dangerous separatist” in the past, was sworn in on Monday on the island. He promised to defend democracy there in the face of Chinese threats and called on China to “stop its political and military intimidation”. He also spoke directly about the risk of war after years of increasing pressure from China to bring Taiwan under its control.

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Taiwanese separatists “will be pilloried of shame for history”commented Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday. “Lai Ching-te’s betrayal of his nation and ancestors is shameful”added the minister during a meeting of foreign ministers of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

This week, China also responded by sanctioning around fifteen American companies to denounce the sale of arms by the United States to Taiwan. Because if Washington abandoned diplomatic recognition of Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979, the American Congress simultaneously imposed the provision of arms to Taiwan, with the stated aim of dissuading China from any expansionist desire.

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The previous large-scale Chinese military exercises around Taiwan took place in August 2023, a “severe warning”, according to Beijing, after a visit by Mr. Lai, then vice-president, to the United States. Before that, Beijing had also launched maneuvers of historic proportions in August 2022 after the visit to the island of Nancy Pelosi, then head of American deputies.

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The World with AFP

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