China Initiates Large Drills 'Surrounding' Taiwan As Warning To New President Lai

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 01:20 AM

A mere few days after Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, was sworn into office at the start of the week, China's military on Thursday morning (local time) initiated two days of large-scale military drills.

PLA navy ships and aircraft are now reportedly "surrounding the island of Taiwan," according to state media and PLA statements. The drills are said to be ensuing in the Taiwan Strait as well as to the north, south and east of the island - and additionally near the disputed tiny islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin in the East China Sea.

"The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) started joint military drills surrounding the island of Taiwan from 7:45 a.m. Thursday (2345 GMT)," Xinhua news agency said.

Illustrative prior drills near Taiwan, via Xinhua

Dubbed Joint Sword-2024A, the exercises will "focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrol, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets" - according to military spokesman Li Xi.

The statement described that the drills "involve the patrol of vessels and planes closing in on areas around the island of Taiwan and integrated operations inside and outside the island chain to test the joint real combat capabilities of the forces of the command."

And ominously, Xinhua further cited the spokesman as saying the drills will serve as a "strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces."

Taiwan's new president Lai only on Tuesday called on China "to cease their political and military intimidations against Taiwan, and share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as the greater region, and to ensure the world is free from the fear of war." These were some of his first words spoken as president.

Beijing had previously warned that Lai is a "dangerous separatist" who will ensure future "war and decline" for the island of Taiwan, which China has long claimed as its own.

Lai had underscored in his 30-minutes inaugural speech, "I have always believed that if the leader of a country puts people’s welfare above all, then peace in the Taiwan Strait, mutual benefits, and prosperous coexistence would be common goals,” he said. “I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence."

While China regularly sends jets to buzz Taiwan's air defense identification zone, the start of these drills marks an escalation akin to when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taipei in 2022.

What the 2022 PLA 'encircling' drills in response to Nancy Pelosi looked like...


Washington and Taiwan's Western backers will certainly keep a close eye to see how expansive and threatening these fresh encircling exercises are, at a tense moment the globe is already focused on two other flashpoints and grinding wars in Ukraine and in Gaza. And the United States is involved in funding/arming one side in each instance of all of these conflict zones.