China Launches Military Drills Around Taiwan as ‘Punishment’

( – Tensions between Taiwan and mainland China are higher than ever as China is putting on a display of military belligerence with days of tactical drills involving strafing fighter jets and military warships.

China is calling its display a “punishment” for Taiwan’s display of what it calls “separatism.” The island of Taiwan considers itself an independent democratic republic, while mainland China insists on its “one China” stance; Beijing says Taiwan is merely part of communist China itself. The issue has never been formally or militarily adjudicated.

At least two dozen Chinese military jets have been spotted carrying live ammo and enacting mock strikes as part of a formation with naval destroyers and frigates. This is in apparent retaliation against Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, who recently warned China that Taiwan wants peace but that it will not negotiate its status as a sovereign democracy.

China’s antics began on May 23rd and lasted several days in the seas around the island of Taiwan. Some observers believe the drills are actually a practice run for a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. The region in which the military exercises are taking place appears to be the largest China has used for this purpose so far. The area includes almost all of the Taiwan Strait, the Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Taiwan, and much of the waters off the east coast of the island nation.

When the drills started on Thursday, May 23rd, the faux attack encircled Taiwan, according to military analyst Chieh Chung of Taiwan. He said the fact that China is including all the small islands off Taiwan’s coast indicates that China means to destroy any infrastructure that could be used to launch a military defense against an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army of China. Chieh predicts China will launch similar exercises throughout the year.

At least a dozen Chinese warships and another dozen Chinese coast guard vessels have been spotted in the seas around the island.

China is making no bones about its intent. Naval Colonel Li Xi of the PLA, speaking on behalf of the command staff, said the display was both a punishment and warning for Taiwan about its “separatist acts.” The military games are also meant to deter “provocation by external forces,” he said.

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