As China launches military drills, Taiwan is ‘preparing for conflict without seeking war’

Following Nancy Pelosi’s visit, combat drills surrounding the island have started, which according to Taiwan’s defence ministry amounts to an island blockade.

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After China’s military started an unprecedented four days of live-fire drills close to Taiwan’s shores on Thursday in response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, Taiwan’s military declared that it is “preparing for war without wanting war.”

The start of a “major military training exercise and organised live fire” that is anticipated to involve missile testing was announced by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV at noon local time.

“Six important regions around the island were chosen for this actual battle simulation, and throughout this time all ships and aircraft should avoid the relevant sea lanes and airspace” added further.

Six regions encircling Taiwan were mentioned in the notices of the exercises, and all ships and aircraft were advised to steer clear of those areas. A few of the zones border Taiwan’s territorial seas and are located close to important shipping ports. Taiwan’s defence ministry charged that China’s actions amounted to constructing a blockade. While still able to reach Taiwan, ships and flights were apparently told to take a different path.

The Chinese government was charged with “irrational behaviour” ten minutes before the drills started, according to a statement from Taiwan’s department of defence, which claimed the live-fire drills were conducted with “the intention of changing the status quo and disrupting regional peace and stability.”

“The ministry of national defence stresses that it will uphold the principle of preparing for war without seeking war, and with an attitude of not escalating conflict and causing disputes,” it said.

“The national army will continue to strengthen its alert, and troops at all levels will conduct daily training.”

Under intense international attention, the US House speaker landed in Taipei on Tuesday night. She interacted with Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, as well as other political and commercial figures.

She asserted that in the face of a more authoritarian China, US support for Taiwan was “critical.”

“We are proud of our enduring friendship with Taiwan, and our delegation came to Taiwan to make it crystal clear we would not desert Taiwan,” said the delegation.

Since the visit’s schedule was disclosed a few weeks ago, the Chinese government has responded angrily to it. It had threatened to take countermeasures, a frequently heard threat in response to foreign actions supporting Taiwan, but one that caused China watchers more alarm than normal. With its heightened rhetoric, analysts claimed Beijing had put itself in a precarious position and would need to show much more force than usual to maintain its credibility.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes participated in incursions over the Taiwan strait’s median line, which serves as an unofficial border between China and Taiwan, as part of the manoeuvres that started on Thursday. Unidentified aircraft, most likely drones, passed over the vicinity of Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen islands near the mainland coast on Wednesday night, just hours after Pelosi left for South Korea, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.

“We immediately fired flares to issue warnings and to drive them away,” Major General Chang Zone-sung of the army’s Kinmen Defense Command told Reuters.

Taiwan was also the victim of many cyberattacks that momentarily took down the foreign ministry, presidential office, and defence ministry websites.

The omnipresent 7-11 convenience stores were allegedly targeted on Wednesday by unknown individuals, who caused a message to appear on every in-store television on the island accusing Pelosi of being a “warmonger”. The language used in mainland China for writing was simplified Chinese.

Chinese leaders kept up their rhetoric and threats on Thursday. In a furious interview with French television, China’s ambassador to France stated that the Taiwanese people would need to be “re-educated” after any successful takeover by China.

The Taiwanese government’s Democratic Progressive party is alleged to have spread “extreme” propaganda and turned the populace against “reunification” with China, according to the ambassador, Lu Shaye.

When asked about previous comments about “re-educating” Taiwan’s population, Lu said: “We will re-educate. I’m sure that …the Taiwanese population will again become favorable of the reunification, and will become patriots again,” he said.

Online observers remarked that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang is also referred to as “re-education.”

Beijing asserts that Taiwan is a province of China and reserves the right to annex it. The dispute, according to its Taiwan Affairs division, was an internal matter.

“Our punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards, external forces is reasonable, lawful,” it said.

At their conference this week in Cambodia, the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) 10 members urged for “maximum caution” without specifically addressing the US or China. It issued a statement cautioning that there could be “severe confrontation, open confrontations, and unforeseen outcomes among great countries” as a result of the situation.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi stated at the Asean gathering that although Beijing has made the “biggest diplomatic efforts,” it will “never allow its basic interests to be damaged.”

Along with calling for calm, the G7 nations charged China with “raising tensions and destabilising the area.”

“There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” it said. “We call on the PRC not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region, and to resolve cross-Strait differences by peaceful means.”

In response, the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom charged that the G7 had been “led astray by the US” and urged its members to “stop making incorrect comments regarding Taiwan, stop meddling in China’s internal affairs, and stop sending incorrect signals in any form to secessionist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’.”