China continues military maneuvers near Taiwan, sending warships and fighter jets around the island

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In Beijing, on May 23, 2024, a person in the street watches information on a screen showing military exercises being carried out around the island of Taiwan by the Chinese army. TINGSHU WANG / REUTERS

In accordance with its plans, Beijing is continuing its military exercises around Taiwan. Chinese warships and fighter planes surround the autonomous island on Friday, May 24, for the second day in a row.

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These maneuvers, called “United Sword 2024A”, come after the swearing in on Monday of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te, whose inauguration speech was perceived by China as a “confession of Taiwan’s independence”. Started Thursday morning, they involve the army, the navy, the air force and the rocket unit. They are due to last until Friday inclusive but analysts warn that they could be extended or renewed soon.

Their objective is to verify the “ability to take power and [mener des] joint strikes, as well as taking control of key territories”, said Li Xi, spokesperson for the Chinese army’s Eastern Theater Command, on Friday. Beijing presented these military exercises on Thursday as a “severe punishment” against the “separatists” of the island which will end ” in the blood “.

Videos released by the Chinese military on Friday showed soldiers running out of a building to their combat stations and fighter jets taking off to the sound of military music. According to state television CCTV, Chinese naval officers called on their Taiwanese counterparts not to “resist reunification by force”.

Entry into “forbidden waters”

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AP

An animated Chinese military graphic showed missiles raining down on key targets to the north, south and east of the island, with a message saying it would help “cutting the blood vessels of Taiwan independence”.

Four Chinese coast guard vessels entered the “forbidden waters” of two Taiwanese islands, Taipei said. “This is the eighth time this month that Chinese coast guard vessels have sailed in prohibited waters”said the Taiwanese coast guard, who “urge[é] China to exercise restraint and immediately cease its irrational behavior”.

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Taiwan “will defend the values ​​of freedom and democracy”promised on Thursday, Mr. Lai, described by Beijing as a “dangerous separatist” for his past statements in favor of the island’s independence, although he has since moderated his speech. “I will stand on the front lines with our brothers and sisters in the military to defend national security together”he assured.

China considers that Taiwan is one of its provinces, which it has not yet succeeded in reunifying with its territory since the end of the civil war and the coming to power of the communists in 1949. For several years, Beijing has intensified its threats and political, economic and military pressure on Taiwan.

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These maneuvers constitute a “severe punishment for the separatist acts of “Taiwan independence” forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces”, Li Xi said on Thursday. They take place “in the Taiwan Strait, in the north, south and east of the island of Taiwan, as well as in the areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin” – close to the Chinese east coast – he said.

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Washington calls on China to “restrain”

The UN has called on all parties to “refrain from any action that could aggravate tensions” and, in Washington, a senior official who requested anonymity said that the United States “watched very closely” the situation and called China “with restraint”.

The People’s Republic of China says it favors reunification “peaceful” with the island territory of 23 million inhabitants, but does not rule out using force.

During his swearing-in on Monday, Lai Ching-te called on China to “stop its political and military intimidation”. Taiwanese separatists “will be pilloried of shame for history”Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reacted the next day.

On Friday, the official Chine Nouvelle agency and the Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Dailypublished editorials praising the military maneuvers, castigating the “treacherous behavior” of Mr. Lai and promising to hit him “a severe blow”.

The previous large-scale Chinese military exercises around Taiwan took place in August 2023 after a visit by Mr. Lai, then vice-president, to the United States. Beijing also launched maneuvers of historic scale in August 2022 after the visit to the island of Nancy Pelosi, then president of the American House of Representatives.

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The World with AFP

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