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Cross-Strait tension escalates following China’s military drills around Taiwan

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A member of PLA looking through binoculars during military exercises in Taiwan (Photo/Reuters)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, May 28: Three days after Lai Ching-te was sworn in as the new President of Taiwan, China’s military conducted extensive drills around the self-ruled democratic island nation. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deployed 15 warships, 16 naval police vessels, and 42 fighter jets encircling the island. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin called the two-day drills a “powerful punishment” for President Lai’s pro-sovereignty remarks, warning that “independent forces” would be left “with their heads broken and blood flowing.” “Every time ‘Taiwan independence’ provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further, until the complete reunification of the motherland is achieved,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Friday.

Lai, who took charge in his inauguration speech on Monday urged China “to stop threatening Taiwan,” stating, “I also want to call on China to cease their political and military intimidation against Taiwan,” and emphasising that “peace is the only option.” Following the military drills, Lai on Sunday slammed the drills as “irrational provocations” and promised to “stand on the frontline with the army.” “I also look forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation through exchanges and cooperation with China… and moving towards a position of peace and common prosperity,” he told reporters at an event in Taipei. 

These latest two-day drills are the largest since August 2022, when then-US Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei- the first visit by a high-ranking US official in decades. In response to that visit, the PLA then launched unprecedented military drills by deploying 36 military aircraft and 10 ships around the island. At the time, Beijing condemned the visit as “foreign interference in its internal affairs” and fired at least five ballistic missiles toward Taiwan, which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

Lai Ching-te has emphasised Taiwan’s independence, aligning with his party’s commitment to preserving the island as a distinct entity separate from mainland China. This stance has led Beijing to label him a “dangerous separatist.” Chinese President Xi Jinping has consistently voiced his determination to achieve the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China, even by force if necessary.

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