China holds military drills around Taiwan as 'strong punishment'

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China holds military drills around Taiwan as 'strong punishment'
China has called its drills around Taiwan a "strong punishment" for "separatist acts"

BBC | China has started two days of military exercises around Taiwan, with its military calling them "strong punishment" for the self-ruled island's "separatist acts".

The drills come three days after the inauguration of President William Lai, who called on China to stop threatening the island and accept the existence of its democracy.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually be under Beijing's control, but the island sees itself as distinct.

Taiwan's defence ministry condemned the Chinese drills as "irrational provocations".

Taipei dispatched naval, air, and ground forces to "defend the [island's] sovereignty", its defence ministry said.

Thursday's drills for the first time simulated a full-scale attack, Taiwanese military experts said, rather than an economic blockade.

The exercises took place all around the main island, and for the first time also targeted the Taipei-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin which lie close to the Chinese coast, according to maps released by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The drills also included a component to the east of Taiwan - the island's rugged east coast on the other side of a mountain range has long been its military redoubt.

Taiwan has built much of its hardened military infrastructure along this coast, including a large underground airbase inside a mountain near the city of Hualien. It is also close to Japan’s southern islands, and a natural resupply route.

By sending naval and air patrols to the east of Taiwan, China aims to show Taipei that its east is now exposed to Chinese attack, and to show the Americans that any effort to resupply or re-enforce Taiwan from the east is vulnerable to Chinese missile strikes and naval attack.

The PLA said its drills focused on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrols, precision strikes on key targets, and integrated operations inside and outside the island to test the "joint real combat capabilities" of its forces.

Taiwanese media cited military expert Chieh Chung saying the ongoing exercise is aimed at "simulating a full-scale armed invasion of Taiwan".

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