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China Deploys Warplanes And Ships Near Taiwan In Protest Against New Leadership

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Taiwan tracked dozens of Chinese warplanes and navy vessels off its coast on Friday, marking the second day of a large military exercise launched by Beijing. The exercise is meant to express anger over the inauguration of Taiwan’s new leaders, who refuse to accept China’s claim that Taiwan is part of its territory.

China has issued elaborate media statements showing Taiwan surrounded by its military forces. A new video released on Friday depicted animated Chinese forces approaching from all sides, with Taiwan enclosed in a circular target area and simulated missiles hitting key population and military targets.

Despite the military activity, there was little sign of concern among Taiwan’s 23 million residents, who have lived under the threat of Chinese invasion since the two sides split during a civil war in 1949. Taiwan’s parliament was engaged in a procedural dispute between political parties on Friday, while business continued as usual in the bustling capital of Taipei and the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung.

The defense ministry reported tracking 49 Chinese warplanes, 19 navy vessels, and coast guard vessels. Of these, 35 planes crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the two sides, over a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday.

Taiwanese marine and coast guard vessels, along with air and ground-based missile units, have been put on alert, particularly around the Taiwan-controlled island chains of Kinmen and Matsu, which are close to China’s coast but far from Taiwan’s main island.

The Pentagon stated that the United States was “monitoring very closely” the joint Chinese drills, calling Beijing’s actions “reckless, risk escalation, and erode longstanding norms that have maintained regional peace and stability for decades.”

In his inauguration speech on Monday, Taiwan’s new leader Lai urged Beijing to stop its military intimidation, declaring that Taiwan was “a sovereign independent nation in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people.”

China’s military described its expanded exercises around Taiwan as punishment for separatist forces seeking independence. The military sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwan’s defenses and intimidate its people, who firmly support their de facto independence.

The one-China principle asserts that there is only one China, with Taiwan as part of it under Communist Party rule. Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and has increased its military threats, even as the island’s electorate overwhelmingly favors de facto independence.

In Beijing, international relations professor Shi Yinhong at Renmin University of China stated that the drills and China’s verbal condemnations of Lai were intended to show Beijing’s anger toward Lai and his administration’s policies. These include continuing his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen’s policies of building a strong national defense and resisting Beijing’s efforts to diplomatically isolate Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, at a daily briefing on Friday, dismissed U.S. calls for China to exercise restraint in relation to the latest drills. Wang stated that the U.S. “is in no position to make such irresponsible remarks.”

Washington is legally bound to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and considers all threats to the island a matter of “grave concern.” The U.S. has been aiding in upgrading Taiwan’s equipment and training, even while its official policy remains ambiguous on whether American troops and regional allies would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

China’s exercises follow combined drills by the U.S. and its Dutch NATO ally in the disputed South China Sea, a crucial waterway for global trade, fisheries, and energy resources that China claims almost entirely.

China routinely objects to activities in the region by foreign military forces, accusing them of acting without mandate outside their home regions. China has particularly pressed its claims against the Philippines.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro on Friday, criticized Beijing’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea without citing China by name. He spoke at a military ceremony marking the anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Navy, stating that the Philippines would not tolerate aggression and provocative moves.

Since territorial hostilities with China surged last year in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration has taken steps to forge new security alliances with several Asian and Western countries and allowed a U.S. military presence in more Philippine bases under a 2014 defense pact.

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