Taiwan Calls Chinese Military Drills a Threat to Region

BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan’s government said Thursday that recent Chinese military drills are aimed at intimidating the island and are a threat to regional peace and stability.

China is attempting to “pressure and harass Taiwan and seek to raise tensions between the sides and in the region,” the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council said on its website.

“Taiwan’s people are very clear about this and will not accept it. We are determined in our defense of our nation’s sovereignty and dignity and will absolutely not yield to military threats or inducements,” the statement said.

Underscoring the heightened tensions between the rivals, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a new warning to Taipei on Thursday against taking further steps toward formal independence.

“Taiwan independence separatist activities pose the biggest actual threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” spokesman Ma Xiaoguang was quoted as saying. “Any plots seeking to separate Taiwan from China are doomed to failure.”

Ma was responding to a question about whether an increase in Chinese air force training flights around Taiwan was a response to comments from Taiwanese Premier William Lai in parliament that he’s a “Taiwanese independence worker,” adding that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation. Ma offered no details.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and says the two sides, which separated during the Chinese civil war in 1949, must eventually be united, by force if necessary.

The Taiwanese statement referred to China’s live-fire exercises off its southeast coast on Wednesday, echoing earlier comments from the defense ministry that Beijing was playing up the limited-scope war games in hopes of intimidating Taiwan for political purposes.

Beijing’s hostility makes “the hugest mockery” of its assertion of a spiritual connection between people from the two sides, it said.

Chinese state media said the single-day drills off China’s southeast coast featured an air unit of the People’s Liberation Army ground forces. The PLA said the exercise involved the coordination of various types of armed helicopters that detected targets on the water and attacked them.

It was unclear if the exercises referred to earlier drills announced by China that were to take place in the Taiwan Strait. State broadcaster China Central Television reported Wednesday that the Taiwan Strait exercises targeted advocates of formal independence for Taiwan, saying in a headline on its website, “Don’t say you haven’t been warned!”

China’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to questions.

China severed ties with Taiwan almost two years ago, after independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen refused its demand to recognize the self-governing island democracy as a part of Chinese territory.

Chinese officials have denounced the recent passage of a U.S. law encouraging more high-level government contacts with Taiwan, saying that violates U.S. commitments not to restore formal exchanges severed when Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

Ties have also been roiled by U.S. plans to provide Taiwan with submarine manufacturing technology and the appointment of hawkish U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.

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