New military exercises in Taiwan after repeated threats from Beijing

A Taiwanese army maneuver using 155 howitzers during an anti-landing maneuver in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan, August 9, 2022 (Sam Yeh/AFP)

On Thursday, the Taiwanese army conducted new live-fire exercises, after Beijing, which continues to threaten, ended its largest military maneuvers ever organized across the island.

Eighth Corps spokesman Lu Wei Jie told AFP that the Taiwanese forces fired howitzers and flares as part of defensive exercises.

He added that these maneuvers in Pingtung County (south) began at 8:30 am (0030 GMT) and lasted an hour.

A live broadcast showed artillery pieces lined up on the coast and soldiers storming units and shooting towards the sea.

Taiwan has already conducted military exercises on Tuesday in Pingtung.

According to the military, hundreds of men took part in these two courses.

The authorities downplayed the scope of these exercises, making sure that these exercises were indeed scheduled and were not in response to those of China.

Military exercises in Taiwan
Military exercises in Taiwan (Sophie STUBER / AFP)

The events in Beijing erupted after a visit to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who launched multi-day air and sea exercises around the island.

Taipei accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to practice the invasion.

Mr. Lu explained that Taiwan’s new exercises on Thursday have two “objectives”, “ensure the good condition and well-maintained artillery” and “confirm the results” of previous military exercises organized in 2021.

The Taiwanese military said, on Thursday, that it had monitored 21 aircraft and six Chinese ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, without specifying whether they were carrying out operations or not. Among the Chinese planes, 11 crossed the unofficial demarcation line between China and Taiwan, which Beijing has not recognized.

“One country, two systems”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked the soldiers during Thursday’s visit to the Air Force Command Center.

“The Chinese military threat has not diminished,” she said on her Facebook page.

“We will not exacerbate the conflict, we will not cause disputes. We will firmly defend our sovereignty and national security, and in the forefront of democracy and freedom,” she said.

For its part, Beijing announced, on Wednesday, the end of its exercises, declaring that its forces “carried out various tasks” in the Taiwan Strait, while pledging to continue guarding its waters.

In the same statement, China confirmed that it would “continue to conduct military exercises and prepare for war.”

Meanwhile, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a white paper on Wednesday that Beijing “does not give up the use of force” against its neighbor and retains “the possibility of taking all necessary measures.”

“We are ready to create a wide space (for cooperation) in order to achieve peaceful reunification,” the document said. But we will not leave any room for separatist actions aimed at the false independence of Taiwan. “

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, in agreement with China’s highest policy body, rejected the “one country, two systems” model proposed by Beijing for the island.

Taiwan army soldiers launch flares during an anti-landing exercise in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan on August 9, 2022.
Taiwan army soldiers launch flares during anti-landing exercises in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan, August 9, 2022 (Sam Yeh/AFP)

“China’s entire statement is completely inconsistent with the status quo and the reality of the Straits,” ministry spokeswoman Guan Ou said at a press conference.

The phrase “one country, two systems” refers to the principle that is supposed to offer some autonomy to the Chinese regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

In a statement Thursday, the Communist Party of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office responded to the Taiwan exercises by downplaying the “rebellious actions of Taipei” that “cannot stop the historical trend of reunification” with mainland China.

In Washington, Pelosi said on Wednesday she was “very proud” of her visit to Taiwan, asserting that Beijing had used it as an “excuse” to start its military exercises. “We will not let Beijing isolate Taiwan,” she told reporters.

Taiwan regularly conducts military exercises to simulate a Chinese invasion. Last month, Al Jazeera trained to repel a landing as part of “Operation Joint Interception,” during its largest annual exercise.

Since the late 1990s, the island has evolved from authoritarian rule to a vibrant democracy, and a distinct Taiwanese identity has emerged.

Relations across the strait have deteriorated significantly since Tsai Ing-wen became president of Taiwan in 2016.

Ms. Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party do not consider Taiwan to be part of China. Their concept falls under Beijing’s broad definition of Taiwanese separatism, including those who advocate a separate identity for the island from the mainland.

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