Sunday, October 2, 2022

China: Military drills, flights were needed to defend Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) – China’s recent increase in military exercises and combat missions near Taiwan – which have raised concerns about the region – were necessary to defend the country’s sovereignty and the region, a Chinese official said on Wednesday.

China’s military flew 56 planes off the southwest coast of Taiwan in one day earlier this month, a one-day record that spanned four days of a sustained pressure campaign involving 149 flights. All were in international airspace, but demonstrations raised fears that any wrong move could spark unexpected growth in the area.

Taiwan sees China’s move as a threat to bring the island under its control, which it considers necessary to be under its control by military means, as its territory. The sides split in 1949 amid civil war and have no official contact.

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the exercise was intended to “fundamentally protect the overall interests of the Chinese nation and the vital interests of the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Straits”.

“The People’s Liberation Army exercises are necessary actions to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma told reporters at a biweekly news conference in Beijing.

Ma blamed Taiwan’s independence-leaning democratically elected government and its ties with “external forces” for fueling tensions.

External observers say the military maneuvers are intended to erode Taiwan’s physical defense capabilities, while also turning civilians against its leaders through psychological warfare.

Taiwan, a close US ally, fired jets and activated its missile air defense systems to intercept Chinese aircraft. It is also working to boost its defense by purchasing new technology from the US and developing domestic systems, including submarines.

Opinion polls show that the majority of Taiwanese are in favor of retaining its de facto independent status without accepting China’s demands for political integration.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen pledged on Sunday to defend the island from mounting pressure from China after a week of unprecedented tensions with Beijing.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said the occupation of Taiwan “must be realized” a day after he said it was best brought about by peaceful means.

However, Xi also said that, “no one should underestimate the determination, will and ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

While such rhetoric is familiar, many see the conflict as likely arising from Xi’s desire to maintain the status quo of de facto independence and what many refer to as the “Taiwan Question”.

Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng earlier this month called the situation the most dire situation in 40 years and believed China would have a “broad” capability to invade Taiwan by 2025.

In a conversation with reporters this week, political scientist Shelley Rieger said the situation seemed more acute, but it was more likely to be used as a deterrent.

“So trying to prevent Taiwan from imaging that there is some kind of opportunity to change its position and also trying to stop providing support to the US or creating the impression in Taiwan that it’s going to take Taiwan.” It may be a moment to push the envelope harder,” said Rieger, a longtime observer of Taiwanese politics at Davidson College in North Carolina.

“I also think there is an element of the PLA testing its operational capabilities, and therefore killing two birds with one stone – you are sending a strong message to Taiwan and the US and you are also to your military personnel. At least getting a lot of flying hours,” Rieger said.

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Nation World News Desk
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