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Members of the pro-Taiwanese independence party Taiwan Statebuilding at a protest last week Alamy Stock Photo

China warns peace and independence in Taiwan are 'mutually exclusive'

China launched the exercises in response to a meeting between the Taiwanese president and US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Apr 2023

CHINA HAS DECLARES it has “successfully completed” three days of war games around Taiwan, capping a show of force that saw it simulate targeted strikes and practise a blockade of the self-ruled island.

Beijing’s exercises were a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, an encounter it had warned would provoke strong countermeasures.

After three days of exercises, the Chinese military said it had “successfully completed” tasks related to its “Joint Sword” drills.

The exercise “comprehensively tested the integrated joint combat ability of multiple military branches under actual combat conditions”, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Command said in a statement.

The statement said troops were “ready for battle and can fight at any time, and will resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism and foreign interference attempts”.

The war games saw Beijing simulate targeted strikes on Taiwan and encirclement of the island, including “sealing” it off, and a state media report said dozens of planes had practised an “aerial blockade”.

One of China’s two aircraft carriers – the Shandong – also “participated in today’s exercise”, the military said.

US ship deployed

The United States, which had repeatedly called for China to show restraint, on Monday sent the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer through contested parts of the South China Sea.

“This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea,” the US Navy said in a statement.

It added that the vessel had passed near the Spratly Islands – an archipelago claimed by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. It is about 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) from Taiwan.

The deployment of the Milius immediately triggered a condemnation from China, which said the vessel had “illegally intruded” into its territorial waters.

Separately, Beijing warned Monday that Taiwanese independence and cross-strait peace were “mutually exclusive”, blaming Taipei and unnamed “foreign forces” supporting it for the tensions.

Close Chinese ally Russia defended the drills, with a Kremlin spokesperson saying Beijing had a “sovereign right” to respond to what Moscow called “provocative acts”.

‘No war’

On Beigan island, part of Taiwan’s Matsu archipelago that is within sight of China’s mainland, 60-year-old chef Lin Ke-qiang told AFP he did not want war.

“We, common people, just want to live peaceful and stable lives,” Lin said, adding that Taiwan’s military was no match for China’s.

“If any war happens, now that their missiles are so advanced, there’s no way our side could resist. This side will be levelled to the ground.”

Others, however, were more blase about the exercises.

“I think we don’t have to take (the drills) too seriously,” said Arielle Shen, a 50-year-old teacher in Taipei. “China is bluffing and it’s just an act of showing its dissatisfaction to the United States.”

China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. China views the democratic island as part of its territory and has vowed to take it one day.

The United States has been deliberately ambiguous on whether it would defend Taiwan militarily.

But for decades it has sold weapons to Taipei to help ensure its self-defence and offered political support.

Tsai met McCarthy outside Los Angeles on her way home from a visit with two allied countries in Central America.

In August last year, China deployed warships, missiles and fighter jets around Taiwan in its largest show of force in years following a trip to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.

Tsai meeting with McCarthy in the United States, rather than in Taiwan, was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for the island but avoid inflaming tensions with Beijing.

But China had repeatedly warned against any meeting, and began the latest war games soon after Tsai returned to Taiwan.

Tsai responded to the drills by pledging to work with “the US and other like-minded countries” in the face of “continued authoritarian expansionism”.

Monday’s exercises were to include live-fire drills off the rocky coast of China’s Fujian province, about 80 kilometres south of the Matsu islands and 190 kilometres from Taipei, maritime authorities said on Saturday.

The local maritime authority said the exercises would be held between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm around Pingtan, a southeastern island that is China’s nearest point to Taiwan.

A video published today to the Chinese Eastern Theatre Command’s official WeChat account showed a pilot saying he had “arrived near the northern part of Taiwan Island”, with missiles “locked into place”.

In another video with dramatic orchestral accompaniment, an officer’s piercing whistle sends military personnel running into position as a simulated barrage on Taiwan unfolds on screen.

© AFP 2023

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