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Friday, May 24, 2024

Taiwan puts military on high alert

Taipei has scrambled jets after China launched war games to punish the self-governing island for alleged “separatist acts”

Taiwan has scrambled fighter jets and put its naval and ground forces on high alert in response to Chinese military exercises that were billed as punishing the self-governing island for “separatist acts” following Monday’s inauguration of an anti-Beijing president.

“We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one to ensure our nation’s safety and protect our beautiful homeland,” the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. The ministry condemned China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for launching two days of war games around Taiwan, a move it called an “irrational provocation.”

Read more: Beijing launches ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan

The latest row between Beijing and its breakaway province comes three days after newly elected President Lai Ching-te called, in his inauguration speech, for China to cease its “political and military intimidation against Taiwan.” Chinese officials have branded Lai a “dangerous separatist” and have vowed to reunify with the island – by force, if necessary.

The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said its latest exercises around Taiwan were meant to test the capabilities of its units. “This is also a powerful punishment for the separatist forces seeking independence, and a serious warning to external forces for interference and provocation,” the command added in a statement.

Read more: EU will not recognize Taiwan – Borrell

A map released by the PLA showed five areas where the so-called “Joint Sword-2024A” drills are being held. Those points surround Taiwan’s main island, as well as some outlying islands. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said 49 PLA aircraft were seen operating in the region as of Thursday morning, including 35 that crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait into Taipei’s Air Defense Identification Zone.

“We have the capacity and confidence to ensure our security and defend our sovereignty,” the ministry said. “At the same time, we call for the international community to condemn” the PLA’s exercises. “This pretext for conducting military exercises not only does not contribute to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but also shows [Beijing’s] hegemonic nature at heart.”

Lai visited a marine base in Taoyuan, south of Taipei, on Thursday. “Facing eternal challenges and threats, we will continue to maintain the values of freedom and democracy,” he told sailors and defense officials.