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China launches massive military drills around Taiwan as ‘punishment’ for electing new president

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May 23, 2024

The Chinese military has begun conducting massive military drills encircling Taiwan in “punishment” for the self-governing island’s election of a new president this week.

The two days of drills began Thursday, and Taiwan responded by scrambling jets and placing its army and navy on high alert. China now makes common use of military drills to intimidate and harass Taiwan, which it claims is its sovereign territory.

The drills “serve as a strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” a Chinese military spokesman told state media, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The drills come days after the inauguration of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te, a candidate who strongly supports Taiwanese independence but also has encouraged talks with Beijing and the prevention of foreign military intervention, namely by the U.S.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the drills in a statement Thursday morning, calling it “irrational provocation” on the part of China.

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“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, Lai called for Beijing to cease its military intimidation and pledged to “neither yield nor provoke” the mainland Communist Party leadership.

“Facing external challenges and threats, we will continue to maintain the values of freedom and democracy,” Lai said during a Thursday visit to a marine military base.

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China’s Foreign Ministry warned that Taiwan independence was a “dead-end” on the day of the presidential inauguration.

“No matter under what name or excuse, pushing for Taiwan independence is doomed to fail,” the ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin argued at a daily news briefing when asked about Lai’s inauguration.

Mainland China has long claimed Taiwan as part of its territory. The island first split from Beijing in 1949, when pro-democracy forces fled there after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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