Taiwan’s Leader Vows to Defend Nation as China Simulates Attack

Taiwan's Leader Vows to Defend Nation as China Simulates Attack

A Chinese military ship northwest of Pengjia Island, off the coast of northern Taiwan CREDIT: AFP

Taiwan’s newly inaugurated President, Lai Ching-te, has pledged to “stand on the front lines” to protect his country. This statement comes in response to China’s surprise military drills, which are simulating direct attacks on the island nation.

Addressing a military base, Lai asserted, “I will stand on the front line with our brothers and sisters in the military to jointly defend national security.” He further emphasized Taiwan’s commitment to “defend the values of freedom and democracy, and safeguard peace and stability in the region” in the face of external threats.

Labeled a “separatist” by China, Lai assumed office this week, cautioning China against further military intimidation. At his inauguration, he stated, “Peace is the only option.”

China’s military exercises commenced without warning early Thursday, involving aircraft and ships encircling Taiwan to “test” their combat abilities, according to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. Experts suggest that these drills simulate a full-scale attack on Taiwan for the first time, rather than just a blockade, as seen in similar exercises in 2022.

The PLA launched the drills abruptly, releasing a series of posters that highlighted their “cross-strait lethality.” These posters featured missiles, jets, and boats alongside blood-stained text, declaring, “The weapon aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ to kill ‘independence’ is already in place.”

The Chinese Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as its own despite never governing there, has not ruled out seizing the island by force. It has disregarded Lai’s repeated invitations to talks.

Taiwan’s defense ministry condemned the drills as “irrational provocation that has jeopardized regional peace and stability” and confirmed that its forces are on alert to protect its territory. In a statement, the ministry urged citizens to “stand united” and added, “We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one. We have the capacity, determination, and confidence to safeguard our national security.”

The PLA stated that the drills serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces” and as a warning against “interference,” referring to Western support for Taiwan.

Lai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, was elected in January in a poll that Beijing depicted as a choice between war and peace. Officials in Taipei had anticipated new Chinese military movements around the time of the inauguration.

In August 2022, China initiated larger four-day live-fire exercises following its anger over a visit to the island by Nancy Pelosi, the former US House speaker. A military expert on Chinese state TV suggested that the drills were partly a rehearsal for an economic blockade of the island.

Zhang Chi, a professor at China National Defence University in Beijing, stated that the drills aimed to “strangle” Taiwan’s critical Kaohsiung port and “severely impact” its foreign trade. He added that they would cut off “Taiwan’s lifeline of energy imports” as well as “block the support lines that some US allies provide to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.”

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