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China says drills around Taiwan test ‘seizure of power’ capability

Beijing – Beijing on Friday said ongoing drills encircling Taiwan were testing the military’s ability to seize power over the self-ruled island, days after a new president was sworn in.

China’s military kicked off the war games Thursday morning, surrounding Taiwan with naval vessels and military aircraft, while vowing the blood of “independence forces” on the island would flow.

The exercises — codenamed “Joint Sword-2024A” — come after Lai Ching-te took office as Taiwan’s new president this week and made an inauguration speech that China denounced as a “confession of independence”.

The drills are part of an escalating campaign of intimidation by China that has seen it carry out a series of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan in recent years.

The two-day exercises are testing the “capability of joint seizure of power, joint strikes and control of key territories”, said Li Xi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command.

The United Nations called for all sides to avoid escalation, while the United States — Taiwan’s strongest ally and military backer — “strongly” urged China to act with restraint. 

– ‘Strong punishment’ –

Beijing, which split with Taipei at the end of a civil war 75 years ago, regards the island as a renegade province with which it must eventually be reunified.

As the drills got under way, Beijing said they would serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”.

President Lai said he would “stand on the front line” to defend Taiwan in a speech on Thursday afternoon, without directly referring to the ongoing drills.

China has repeatedly branded Lai a “dangerous separatist” who would bring “war and decline” to the island.

Beijing was further incensed with his inauguration speech on Monday in which he hailed a “glorious” era for Taiwan’s democracy.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Thursday delivered a warning that included language more commonly used by China’s propaganda outlets.

“Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great… trend of China achieving complete unification,” Wang told reporters.

The drills are taking place in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of the island, as well as areas around the Taipei-administered islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin.

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