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China’s “Provocative” Military Drills In the South China Sea Prompts Taiwan To Hold Emergency Meeting

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-Wen. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Large-scale joint air and naval exercises conducted by China within Taiwan’s air defense buffer zone in the South China Sea, has prompted ministers in Taipei to hold an emergency meeting denouncing such an act of “severe provocation” as a threat to peace and stability in the region.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed during a press conference last Thursday night that about two dozen Chinese military aircraft and seven naval ships have conducted combined air and naval drills between 7 a.m. and noon on Wednesday and Thursday.

China has been very clear in its intention to claim Taiwan as part of its territory and is doing things to pressure Taiwan to accept its sovereignty as well. The drills, according to the ministry, were carried out between the southwest coast of Taiwan and the Taiwan-claimed Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.

The drill raises concerns in Taipei and is seen as a serious security threat, as the People’s Liberation Army will most likely increase military pressure closer to Taiwan’s borders once the coronavirus crisis recedes in China.

A former Taiwanese military officer described the move by China as the gravest threat to Taiwan’s security since 1996. It was in 1996 that China carried out a controversial missile test, three of which were fired and splashed in waters near Taiwan’s border.

An intelligence officer from the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, Major General Young Ching Se, has called China’s drills conducted in close proximity to Taiwan an act of invasion.

In an interview, he told reporters that China’s main objective of taking Taiwan is public knowledge and that it would be correct to assume that these drills are only part of the overall plan to invade Taiwan’s territory. He also said that he believes China will continue to conduct such activities disguised as drills.

On the technical side, the drills were actually conducted in international airspace and in international waters, but they were too close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait. This dividing line serves as an unofficial boundary between Taiwan and China and which was agreed by both countries to avoid future collisions or incidents. But China has been more assertive with its claim and even went further to conduct a drill at Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister Chang Che-ping cautioned that China should not underestimate Taiwan’s determination to safeguard its own. He also added that China’s airborne exercises have put the safety of international flights passing through the area at risk.

The relationship between these two countries has soured since Taiwan insists that it is an independent country and will never be part of China. China, on the other hand, sees Taiwan as a renegade province and will one day be part of the mainland again.

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