China launches large military exercises around Taiwan, calls it a warning against separatists

Though Taiwan is internationally recognized as part of China, successive US administrations have openly backed separatist claims and provided military and financial support to them

May 24, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch

Chinese Armed Forces and Coast Guard launched a massive joint, two-day military exercise surrounding Taiwan and its outlying islands in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday May 23 claiming it is a warning against the separatist elements and its international backers.

The military exercises were launched as a response to newly sworn-in president Lai Ching-te’s claims of Taiwan’s independence. Ching-te was elected as president of Taiwan in January this year and he took the oath of office on Monday. During his inaugural speech he had claimed Taiwan (officially Republic of China) to be an “independent and sovereign” nation and denied it to be part of China.

The military drill “Joint Sword-2024A” started early Thursday and concluded on Friday. It is one of the largest such exercises in recent history. It involves all segments of Chinese armed forces, army, navy, air force and rocket forces along with the Chinese Coast Guard, Chinese military spokesperson Colonel Li Xi said on Thursday.

The military exercise is carried out under China’s Eastern Theater Command. It involves all the latest weapons including J-20 stealth fighter jets and advanced maritime warfare technology. It covered areas such as the Taiwan Strait, north, south and east of Taiwan island and outlying islands such as Kinmen, Wuqiq, Dongyin and Matsu.

According to the Chinese military, the vessels participating in the drill on Thursday also ventured inside what the Taiwanese administration called “restricted waters”, which China maintains is Chinese territory.

As per the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the objective of the exercise is to “punish” separatist elements part of the “Taiwan Independence” movement and to send a warning to its international backers.

Taiwan emerged as a separate administration from mainland China following the 1949 revolution. The majority of the world community, nevertheless, considers Taiwan as part of Chinese territory and China has expressed desires to reunify the country which has been opposed by certain political groups in Taiwan including the Lai Ching-te’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

A warning against external interference

On Monday, the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office expressed the hope of a peaceful reunification of the country but also warned Lai Ching-te and his DPP not to carry on with the fallacy of succession. Chen Binhua, spokesperson of the Office had also claimed on Monday that Lai Ching-te’s moves would incite confrontation and antagonism across the Taiwan Straits and accused him of relying on the external forces to seek independence of the island even by force.

“Lai, who incites anti-China sentiment and attempts to achieve independence through force is pushing Taiwan into a perilous situation of potential conflicts, bringing profound disasters to the Taiwan compatriots,” a Global Times editorial said on Thursday.

Weng Wenbin spokesperson of China’s ministry of foreign affairs said on Thursday that, joint exercises safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, forcefully punish “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces’ separatist moves and firmly warn against interference and provocations by external forces, Global Times reported.

Successive US administrations have backed the claims of separatist leadership in Taiwan in the last few years despite officially adhering to “One-China” policy. In the last few years, various top level US officials have made visits to the Island despite strong Chinese opposition. In August 2022, the then speaker of the House of Representative Nancy Pelosi visited the Island provoking several military drills by the Chinese in the region.

Instead of backing off, the Joe Biden administration has chosen to continue its provocative moves. The US Congress has adopted bills providing financial aid for Taiwan’s security including the one last month. Its armed forces have also carried out joint military exercises with Taiwanese forces and the US has sold billions of dollars of weapons to the Taiwanese military. China terms all these moves as provocation and a violation of its “One China” policy.

China’s ministry of defense spokesperson asserted on Friday, that “every time Taiwan independence forces make provocations, the countermeasures will be advanced further, until the complete reunification of China is achieved” Xinhua reported.