Taiwan conducts joint drills in response to China’s threats

After Beijing ended its largest-ever military operations around the island and repeated threats to seize control of the self-ruled democracy, Taiwan’s army conducted another live-fire training on Thursday.

Beijing reacted angrily to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week — the highest-ranking elected American official to visit in decades — by staging days of air and sea drills surrounding the island, resulting in the greatest tensions in years.

Taiwan has accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch invasion-preparation exercises.

Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps spokesman Lou Woei-jye told AFP that its military fired howitzers and target flares on Thursday morning as part of a defensive exercise.

He stated that the practice in the southernmost county of Taiwan, Pingtung, began around 8:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) and lasted approximately one hour.

A live stream revealed artillery was lined up parallel to the coast, with armed men firing the howitzers out to sea one after the other.

Taiwan conducted a similar exercise in Pingtung on Tuesday. Both operations required hundreds of troops, according to the military.

The military has minimized the significance of the exercises, stating that they were already scheduled and not in response to China’s war drills.

“We have two aims for the drills, the first is to certify the artillery’s proper condition and maintenance condition, and the second is to validate the outcomes from the previous year,” Lou stated about annual drills.

“War preparation.”

China’s military announced Wednesday that its drills had concluded, stating that its personnel “successfully performed various tasks” in the Taiwan Strait and promising to continue monitoring its waterways.

China stated in the same announcement that it would “maintain military training and prepare for war.”

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office stated in a separate white paper published on Wednesday that Beijing would “not abandon the use of force” against its neighbor and would “retain the possibility of taking all necessary measures.”

“We are prepared to create enormous space for peaceful reunification, but we will not tolerate any type of separatist activity,” the paper stated.

In 2000, China issued its last white paper on Taiwan.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry joined its highest policymaking body on China, rejecting the “one nation, two systems” approach advocated for the island by Beijing.

“China’s entire statement directly contradicts the status quo and reality across the Taiwan Strait,” ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said at a press briefing.

“China is exploiting the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a pretext to disrupt the status quo and create unrest to scare the Taiwanese people,” the article states.

“One country, two systems” refers to the plan that offered Hong Kong and Macau autonomy under Chinese authority.

Taiwan periodically conducts military exercises simulating defense against a Chinese invasion, and last month, as part of its major yearly exercises, it practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “combined intercepting operation.”

In reaction to the Chinese military’s announcement on Wednesday that it was ending military exercises, Taiwan’s army said it will “modify how we deploy our forces…without letting our guard down.”

Since the late 1990s, Taiwan has transitioned from an autocracy to a dynamic democracy, and its identity has become more unique.

Since Tsai Ing-wen became president of Taiwan in 2016, relations between the two sides have deteriorated dramatically.

Taiwan is not considered a part of China by Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

Their stance comes under China’s expansive definition of Taiwanese separatist, which includes individuals who push for Taiwan’s independence from the mainland.