China kicks off military drills near Taiwan after warning it’s willing to fight over the island

  • The Chinese military is conducting exercises at both ends of the Taiwan Strait this week, according to two local maritime safety administration notices.
  • The drills are meant to demonstrate China’s resolve in response to US activities, namely regular Taiwan Strait transits by the US Navy and a $US2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, military experts told the South China Morning Post.
  • The latest exercises follow the release of a new Chinese defence white paper that reiterated Beijing’s longstanding position: China will not renounce the use of force as an option for reunification with Taiwan.
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China has kicked off large-scale military drills in waters near Taiwan just days after warning in a new defence report that it remains ready and willing to use force to achieve reunification.

Drills are being held at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, according to two local maritime safety administration notices marking off the exercise areas.

An area off the coast of Guangdong and Fujian provinces was blocked off from Monday to Friday for military activities in the South China Sea while an area off the coast of Zhejiang province was marked off for military exercises in the East China Sea from Saturday to Thursday, Reuters reported.

The South China Morning Post reports that these exercises may be “routine” drills the Chinese defence ministry recently announced but adds that these appear to be the first simultaneous exercises in the area since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Business Insider was unable to independently confirm this point.

“The main goal of the drills is to practise how to effectively maintain control of the sea and the air amid growing foreign interference in Taiwan affairs,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military analyst, told the Post, explaining that the exercises “serve as a warning to foreign forces that the [People’s Liberation Army] has the resolve to [achieve reunification] with Taiwan.”

A Taiwan-based naval affairs expert said that the PLA was responding to US arms sales to Taiwan and the increasingly routine transits by US Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive international waterway.

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Earlier this month, the US has also approved a $US2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, one that will see the delivery of tanks and surface-to-air missiles able to help Taiwan “maintain a credible defensive capability.”

And last week, the US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The move came just one day after the release of a new Chinese defence white paper warning that the Chinese government will not renounce the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

“We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” the report read. “This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”

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US Navy warship sails through Taiwan Strait as China warns it ‘makes no promise’ not to use force to defend its interests

“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the sharply worded warning said.

Commenting specifically on the recent Taiwan Strait transit, the state-run China Daily accused Washington of “raising a finger to what the white paper said about China’s determination to defend its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that if the US “thinks that Beijing will not deliver on this commitment, it is in for a rude awakening.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said Monday that it is monitoring Chinese military activities, adding that it remains confident in its ability to defend the homeland and safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and sovereignty, according to local media.

“The national army continues to reinforce its key defence capacity and is definitely confident and capable of defending the nation’s security,” the ministry said in a statement.