A Military Tantrum

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China on Thursday launched a series of military drills around Taiwan, a move Beijing said was punishment for the island’s new president’s stance on independence, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Thursday, it made its displeasure known by sending 30 coastguard and navy vessels and 42 military aircraft to territory around Taiwan’s main and smaller islands, according to Taipei’s Defense Ministry.

The drills also included mock attacks, but they came as no surprise to Taiwanese officials who expected a response of that kind, Reuters explained.

The scale of the drills is smaller than similar operations in recent years but the operations came as Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te promised during his inauguration Monday to keep his nation out of China’s orbit.

In August 2022, China carried out even bigger exercises to show its discontent with then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Beijing opposes diplomatic exchanges with Taiwanese leaders.

Lai and his Democratic Progressive Party support Taiwanese sovereignty, while Beijing claims the territory as its own.

Beijing, recently, has been continually expressing its displeasure with the choice of Lai for Taiwan’s top job – with harsh words.

However, “the real ‘punishment’ may be yet to come,” analyst Wen Ti-Sung told Reuters.

In November 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly told US President Joe Biden he preferred China taking control of Taiwan through political means – but he did not rule out a military option, Le Monde wrote.

Thursday’s drill “further allows China to train its (People’s Liberation Army) to engage in coordinated activities with its Coast Guard across a large area around Taiwan,” analyst Bonny Lin told the New York Times. “This could be invaluable experience for a range of operations against Taiwan.”

Even so, experts argued Beijing would avoid a costly war across the Taiwan Strait, explaining that the military exercise signaled a strategy focused on blockading Taiwan rather than direct confrontation, the South China Morning Post reported.

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