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Taiwan guided missile destroyer Ma Kong DDG1805, left, monitors Chinese guided missile destroyer Xi'an DDG15, right, near Taiwan. Photo by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense.

Chinese ‘Punishment’ Military Drills Were a Test for Taiwan

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Taipei criticized Beijing for damaging stability across the Taiwan Strait with “irrational provocation.”

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — China wrapped up a two-day, large-scale military exercise Friday after its forces sent 111 aircraft and 46 naval vessels to areas around Taiwan.

Taiwan’s National Defense Ministry said 82 Chinese military aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, and some got very close to the 24-nautical-mile line that Taiwan uses to define its contiguous zone.

The military drills, branded as a “punishment” for Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, who China views as separatist, focused on conducting joint sea-air combat-readiness patrol, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control and joint precision strikes on key targets involving China’s army, navy, air force and rocket force.

Beijing said the drills were “completely legitimate and necessary,” while Taipei criticized the Chinese military for damaging peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait with its “irrational provocation.”

This is the third time since August 2022 that China has conducted a large-scale military exercise encircling Taiwan. Some analysts say this exercise was “significantly closer” to Taiwan than similar drills in 2022 and 2023.

Other experts say the Chinese military simulated some scenarios that would be involved in a potential invasion of Taiwan during the exercise.

“They focused on joint blockade operation and joint precision strikes on key targets across Taiwan,” said Chieh Chung, a military researcher at Taiwan’s National Policy Foundation.

Taiwan currently lacks effective ways to defend against a potential Chinese attack on key military assets in eastern Taiwan, Chung said.

“The new government under Lai Ching-te needs to convince the United States to provide Taiwan with longer-range, air-launched anti-ship missiles to allow Taiwan to hit Chinese naval vessels in the event of a Chinese attack on eastern Taiwan,” he said.

While Beijing’s latest military drills around Taiwan pose some new challenges to the island’s defense capabilities, some analysts say the Chinese military is also trying to weaken the confidence of the Taiwanese military and the public by using aggressive propaganda campaigns.

Some Taiwanese people think their government should show Beijing that it has the capabilities to counter Chinese military aggression, while others think authorities in Taipei should prioritize efforts to maintain peace.

“It’s time to show Beijing that we are not a paper tiger,” Marcos Cheng, a 29-year-old office worker, told VOA by phone.

Beijing would likely launch similar military drills around Taiwan in the coming months as it tries to maintain pressure on Taiwan’s new government, Chung said.

“Since Beijing’s latest military exercise didn’t involve live-fire drills, they may turn it into part of their regular practice around Taiwan,” he said.

– Based on a report by William Yang, VOA

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