China Holds Live Fire Drills In Taiwan Strait In Warning To Taipei

Xi Jinping oversees China's biggest ever drills last week

On April 18, China conducted live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait. She has refused to endorse China's insistence that Taiwan is Chinese territory, and ties with Beijing have plummeted.

Vessels had been told to avoid a certain area off the Chinese mainland's coast, triggering speculation that a flotilla spearheaded by China's sole aircraft carrier would take part in the exercise.

Despite Beijing's messaging, a Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman described the drill as "small-scale" and said that attempts to intimidate the island wouldn't work. "The Chinese communists have been using cheap verbal intimidation and saber-rattling on every aspect of the Republic of China [Taiwan] in the hope of affecting our morale or creating social unease", ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said, as quoted by Reuters. He said that with the exception of previous year when no exercises were held, annual drills have been the norm since 2007.

It is the first such exercise in the waterway since 2016, and it coincides with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to Swaziland, one of the self-ruled island's few remaining worldwide allies.

The maritime safety authority in the coastal province of Fujian announced the Taiwan Strait one-day drill last week, saying only that it would start at 8 a.m. and end at midnight. He said that this week's drills were also likely intended as a reminder to Washington that Beijing, now embroiled in a trade fight, is willing to take a hard line in relations.

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Beijing protested last month after President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing top-level U.S. officials to travel to Taiwan. Only 20 of the 193 United Nations member states extend Taiwan diplomatic recognition.

Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence and her newly appointed premier William Lai is a long-standing independence advocate. On that occasion, 48 ships navigated in parallel to the Liaoning aircraft carrier and last generation submarines, while 76 aircraft were deployed through the sky because, according to the authorities, the goal is to achieve the integration of all the commands when executing and completing any mission.

Beijing has stepped up military patrols around Taiwan and used diplomatic pressure to isolate the island internationally since Ms Tsai took office.

The drill "is part of Beijing's psychological warfare against Taiwan, and possibly a means to divert attention from Tsai's visit overseas by compelling media to report on the military drills", said J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow at the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute.

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