China says military drills encircling Taiwan designed to test its ability to ‘seize power’ IMAGE

China’s military drills around Taiwan are designed to test its ability to “seize power” over the island, the People’s Liberation Army said Friday as its forces kicked off a second day of large-scale exercises encircling its democratic neighbor.

China’s military drills around Taiwan are designed to test its ability to “seize power” over the island, the People’s Liberation Army said Friday as its forces kicked off a second day of large-scale exercises encircling its democratic neighbor.

The drills are the largest in more than a year and come just days after Taiwan swore in its new presidentLai Ching-te, who is openly loathed by Beijing for championing the island’s sovereignty and distinct identity.

Beijing has denounced Lai as a “dangerous separatist” and decried his inauguration speech on Monday, during which he called on China to cease its intimidation of Taiwan, which has grown much more pronounced under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The PLA, which dwarfs Taipei’s outgunned military, kicked off the exercises on Thursday morning, sending warships and fighter jets around Taiwan and its outlying islands in what it called “a strong punishment for separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces.”

On Friday, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said it was continuing the drills on both sides of the Taiwan island chain to “test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas.”

‘Blockading Taiwan’

China’s military drills are often as much about playing to a domestic audience as signaling intentions internationally, and state media has ramped up coverage of the drills.

Zhang Chi, a Chinese military expert, told China’s state broadcaster CCTV that the PLA’s exercises focused on “practicing a new mode of blockading Taiwan.”

“Taiwan is an isolated island, suspended in the sea with weak self-sufficiency. Taiwan’s economy is export-oriented, and most of its energy consumption relies on imports. Once besieged and blockaded, it can easily lead to economic collapse, turning it into a dead island,” he said.

The exercises to the south of Taiwan are crucial for the blockade, targeting Kaohsiung port, Taiwan’s largest port and an important base for the island’s navy, Zhang said. Meanwhile, drills to the east of Taiwan are designed to practice cutting off the island’s energy imports, the escape routes for “Taiwan independence” forces and the support line from the US and its allies, he added.

The US maintains close but informal relations with Taiwan and is bound by law to supply the island with weapons to defend itself.

Zhang also noted that the drills had achieved “a new breakthrough” by entering waters near Wuqiu and Dongyin, which hold significant geographical importance.

“The Taiwanese military views them as the front outposts for Taiwan Strait defense operations. This exercise further squeezed the activity space of the Taiwanese military,” he said.

Analysts said the China Coast Guard movement close to and around the outlying islands was an important new aspect of the current drills, which follow previous encirclement exercises in August 2022 and April 2023.

“The pressing of Coast Guard and other forces into waters close to those offshore islands is provocative,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.

He said he expected such Chinese activities to continue and that they “will become the norm,” with Beijing at any point able to then turn an exercise into a real military operation.

Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said China’s pattern of exercises around Taiwan does not signal an imminent invasion threat.

China’s military drills surround Taiwan

The drills, the largest in over a year, come just days after Taiwan inaugurated its new president, Lai Ching-te, who is a staunch advocate for Taiwan’s sovereignty.

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