The Taiwanese military held on Thursday yet another round of live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait after the Chinese army concluded its drills in the South China Sea in light of tensions with Taipei over US regional interference.
China announced carrying out fresh military drills around Taiwan Monday, days after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island escalated tensions between the two powers.
Pelosi’s visit led China to announce ending cooperation with the United States on a number of issues such as climate change, anti-drug efforts, and military talks.
What was significant about the visit is that it came at a time of great tensions between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, and it would mark the first visit made by a US House Speaker to the island since 1997.
The Taiwanese armed forces fired howitzers and target flares as part of the military exercises on Thursday morning, Lou Woei-jye, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Eight Army Corps, told AFP.
The spokesperson said the exercise kicked off in the Pingtung country and lasted for about an hour starting at 8:30 am local time.
A live stream of the military drills showed artillery systems lined up side by side on the island’s coast, with units of armed soldiers firing the howitzers into the sea.
Similar drills took place on Tuesday in Pingtung, with both exercises involving hundreds of troops, Taipei announced.
The Taiwanese military is trying to play down the significance of the exercises, claiming that they were already scheduled for these dates and had nothing to do with the island’s tensions with Beijing.
“We have two goals for the drills, the first is to certify the proper condition of the artillery and their maintenance condition, and the second is to confirm the results of last year,” Lou said.
Taiwan’s exercises came less than a day after the Chinese military said its drills ended on Wednesday after its forces “successfully completed various tasks” in the Taiwan Strait, vowing to continue patrolling its waters.
The statement also said the Chinese military would continue carrying out military training “and prepare for war.”
In a multi-decadal first, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a white book on the island, saying it would “not renounce the use of force” against Taiwan, preserving “the option of taking all necessary measures.”
“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” it said in the paper. The last time Beijing issued a white book on Taiwan was in 2000.
The document titled “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era” was jointly prepared and published by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the State Council Information Office of China. Beijing regularly publishes white papers to clarify its policy on various pressing issues.
The document warned that “Separatism will plunge Taiwan into the abyss and bring nothing but disaster to the island,” indicating that in order “To protect the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole, including our compatriots in Taiwan, we must resolutely oppose it and work for peaceful reunification.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi previously stressed that China will leave no room for the pro-Taiwanese independence forces as the reunification of Taiwan with China is historically inevitable and all attempts to use Taiwan to contain China are doomed to failure.
Right ahead of Pelosi’s trek into Taiwan, data for naval and aerial tracking showed the US has deployed naval and aerial military assets, with military ships and jets being drawn closer to Taiwan.
Media reported that the assets included the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was previously in Singapore, the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli and the amphibious assault ship USS America, which were near Japan, as well as over 30 other warships, three submarines, and several fighter aircraft.
Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)