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China concludes fiery military drills encircling Taiwan

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Beijing: China on Monday said it has successfully completed its three-day large-scale fire and fury military drills “encircling” Taiwan, including the use of an aircraft carrier, aimed at showing its anger over the US House Speaker’s meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) successfully completed all tasks of its combat readiness patrols and exercises around Taiwan Island, official media here reported.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that in the past 24 hours, 70 Chinese aircraft and 11 Chinese ships were spotted around Taiwan.

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China views Taiwan as a breakaway province. Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to reunify the self-ruled island with the mainland.

Analysts say that PLA’s exercises this time compared to last August when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, becoming the first high-profile American politician to visit the island defying Beijing’s redlines, were muted and far less in intensity.

China deployed its aircraft carrier ‘Shandong’ and the state-run CCTV showed missiles being fired from several of China’s coastal areas into the Taiwan Strait, the busy waterway that separates the self-governing island from the mainland but chose to end it in three days compared to its previous response.

Officials here attribute the reason for short-term drills to Presidential elections in January next year and Beijing was averse to creating a negative public impression in Taiwan which may shore up public support to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headed by Tsai, a firm opponent of reunification with China.

China hosted former Taiwanese politician Ma Ying-jeou, heading Kuomintang (KMT) party which advocates peaceful ties with Beijing. Ma concluded his visit to China just around the same time Tsai visited the US.

The PLA on Saturday said its forces launched combat readiness patrol and military exercises around Taiwan Island, which will last from April 8 to 10.

The patrol and exercises take place in the maritime areas and airspace of the Taiwan Strait, off the northern and southern coasts of the island, and to the island’s east, said Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the command.

These operations serve as a stern warning against the collusion between separatist forces seeking “Taiwan independence” and external forces and against their provocative activities, Shi said, adding that the operations are necessary for safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday that secessionist acts of “Taiwan independence” and the connivance and support of external forces to them pose the “greatest danger” to peace in the Taiwan Straits.

Acts of “Taiwan independence” are incompatible with peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits “as fire and water,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in response to questions about the ongoing military exercises around the Taiwan Island.

“To maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, we must firmly oppose all forms of ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist acts,” Wang said at a press briefing here.

At Monday’s briefing, Wang expressed hope that the international community shall recognise the nature of the Taiwan question, adhere to the one-China principle, and oppose all forms of “Taiwan independence” secessionist activities.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the PLA Daily on Monday said the US cannot be relied on to defend Taiwan.

It accused Washington of using Taiwan as a pawn and creating a “porcupine” island to contain Beijing, referring to the military strategy of deterring military attacks from the mainland by making conflict too costly.

In the last two days, the PLA simulated missile strikes against key targets on Taiwan and waters near it. It also sent warplanes and ships near Taiwan to improve its combat readiness across multiple armed services and the ability to encircle the island.

The PLA Daily editorial accused the US of having ulterior motives when selling arms to Taiwan.

“Can the US’ ‘security guarantee’ be depended on? The answer is, of course, a resounding no,” the editorial said.

The multi-day exercises coincided with the return of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to Taipei after her high-profile visit to the US last week when she met US House Speaker McCarthy, a move denounced by Beijing.

Also, China on Friday slapped sanctions on two American organisations that hosted Tsai besides Asia-based groups – The Prospect Foundation and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats – for their involvement in promoting Taiwan’s independence.

China views any official exchanges between foreign governments and Taiwan as an infringement on Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the island.

The aggressive exercises were launched after French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his high-profile visit to China on Friday, during which he held wide-range talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, prodding him to use his friendship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to end the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Tsai’s predecessor and pro-Beijing politician, Ma Ying-jeou, also returned to Taiwan on Friday last, ending a 12-day trip to the Chinese mainland, where he sought to promote the one-China framework as the basis for improving cross-strait ties and holding talks.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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