June 22, 2024

Taipei has reported regular sightings of the Chinese military around the island as well as land exercises in Fujian.

China has said its recent military activity around the self-ruled island of Taiwan was intended to “combat the arrogance” of alleged separatists.

Beijing claims the democratic island, which lies about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from China’s eastern coast, as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goals.

It claims President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are “separatists” and has sought to isolate the island internationally since she was first elected in 2016, mounting large-scale drills after her meetings with prominent United States politicians Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy.

In recent weeks, Taiwan has detected almost daily activity by China’s military, including fighter jets, drones, warships and the aircraft carrier Shandong. There have also been land exercises on the closest part of China’s eastern coast to the island, according to Taipei.

Asked at a regular news briefing in Beijing about the Chinese drills, the country’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said China’s People’s Liberation Army had carried out a “series” of drills.

“The purpose is to resolutely combat the arrogance of Taiwan independence separatist forces and their actions to seek independence,” Zhu said.

“The provocation of Taiwan independence continues all day long and the actions of the People’s Liberation Army to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity are always ongoing,” she added.

China’s army has not explicitly mentioned or commented on the drills.

Taiwan’s government says only the island’s people can decide their future and has repeatedly offered talks with China, which Beijing has rejected.

The Shandong as seen from a Taiwan navy ship. It is far in the distance.
Taiwan has also reported the Shandong aircraft carrier passing through the Bashi Channel in the waters off the island’s southeast coast [File: Taiwan Defence Ministry via Reuters]

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defence ministry reported more Chinese military activity, saying that in the previous 24 hours, it had detected and responded to 16 Chinese aircraft entering the island’s air defence identification zone.

Of those, 12 crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides until China began regularly crossing it in August last year.

On Thursday, Taiwan is due to launch the first of eight domestically-made submarines as part of its plans to bolster defences against China.

Asked about the submarines, Zhu claimed efforts by the DPP to “seek independence with force” would only exacerbate tensions and “push the Taiwanese people into a dangerous situation”.

Taiwan has said it needs to modernise its military to better defend itself from an attack by Beijing.

The new submarines will rejuvenate a fleet that currently consists of two World War II-era vessels and two Dutch-made submarines built in the 1980s.

Taiwan’s defence ministry last week took the unusual step of announcing it was monitoring Chinese drills in Fujian province, opposite Taiwan.

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