Taiwan holds military drills, accuses Beijing of preparing invasion
Taiwan’s military conducted a live-fire artillery exercise on Tuesday simulating the island’s defense against a Chinese invasion that the island accuses Beijing of preparing.
An AFP reporter on the scene noted the start of operations in the southern Pingtung County shortly after 00:40 GMT, with flares and artillery fire. The maneuvers ended at about 0130 GMT, said Lou Woei-jye, a spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps.
Several hundred soldiers have been deployed, as well as about forty howitzers, the army said. A new exercise is scheduled for Thursday.
China had launched its most important military air and sea maneuvers around Taiwan last week, in response to the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most senior US official to visit the autonomous island in decades.
Beijing “used the exercises and its military roadmap to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” accused Taiwan’s top diplomat Joseph Wu at a press conference in Taipei after the Taiwanese maneuvers.
“China’s true intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and throughout the region,” he added.
“It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyber attacks, a disinformation campaign and economic coercion in order to weaken the morale of the people in Taiwan,” he continued.
China believes that Taiwan, which has a population of about 23 million, is one of its provinces, which it has not yet managed to reunify with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war (1949).
Lou Woei-jye had assured on Monday that the Taiwanese exercises were already scheduled and that it was not a response to the ongoing Chinese maneuvers.
The island regularly organizes military exercises simulating a Chinese invasion.
– Biden “not worried” –
The Taiwanese drills come after China extended its own joint sea and air maneuvers around the island on Monday.
The Chinese military confirmed that the exercises were continuing on Tuesday, involving air and sea units.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern theater command said in a statement that it was conducting training exercises around the island, “focusing on joint blockade and support operations”.
For Washington, the risk of escalation from Beijing is low. “I am not worried, but I am concerned that they are getting so agitated. But I don’t believe they’re doing more than what they’re doing,'” President Joe Biden told reporters.
Joseph Wu did not fail to thank his Western allies at his press conference, including Nancy Pelosi, for standing up to China.
“It also sends a clear message to the world that democracy will not give in to the intimidation of authoritarianism,” he said.
No Chinese warplanes or ships entered Taiwan’s territorial waters – within 12 nautical miles of land – during Beijing’s exercises, Taiwan stressed.
Last week, the Chinese military still released a video of an air force pilot filming the coast and mountains of the island from his cockpit, showing how close he had come to the Taiwanese coast.
Ballistic missiles were also fired over the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, during last week’s exercises, according to Chinese state media.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern theater command announced that maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters and a destroyer had trained to locate and attack targets in the waters off Taiwan.
The scale and intensity of China’s exercises, as well as its withdrawal from international negotiations around climate and defense, have caused outrage in the United States and other Western countries.
But Beijing defended its behavior on Monday, calling it “firm, forceful and appropriate” in the face of American provocation.
“(We) are only issuing a warning to those responsible” for this crisis, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin argued at a press briefing, promising that China would “firmly break the illusion of the Taiwanese authorities to obtain independence through the United States”.
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