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China ends war games, Taiwan details warplane, warship surge

China ended two days of war games around Taiwan in which it simulated attacks with bombers and practiced boarding ships, exercises that Taiwan condemned as “blatant provocation” on Saturday, detailing a surge of Chinese warplanes and warships.

Chinese state television’s military channel said late on Friday the drills had concluded. A commentary in the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said they had lasted for two days from Thursday to Friday, as previously announced.

China’s defence ministry did not answer calls seeking comment on Saturday.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, launched the “Joint Sword – 2024A” exercises three days after Lai Ching-te became Taiwan’s president, a man Beijing calls a “separatist”.

Beijing said the exercises were “punishment” for Lai’s Monday inauguration speech, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other”, which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries.

Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims. Taiwan’s government has condemned the drills, saying it will not be cowed by Chinese pressure.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it had detected 62 Chinese military aircraft and 27 navy ships on Friday, including 46 planes that crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.

Chinese aircraft, including advanced Su-30 fighters and nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flew in the strait as well as into the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, the ministry said.

On Friday it published footage taken by Taiwanese air force planes of a Chinese J-16 fighter and an H-6 but did not say exactly where it was taken.

Taiwan’s presidential office on Saturday that China’s military moves had undermined the peaceful and stable status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

They “also constitute a blatant provocation to the international order, and have aroused serious concern and condemnation from the international community”, it said in a statement.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theatre Command, whose forces carried out the drills, released a video on its social media accounts on Saturday called “A six-word rhyme on smashing independence”, set to stirring martial music.

The words “advance, surround, lock-down, attack, destroy and cut-off” flash up over footage of fighters, bombers, soldiers and animated mock missile attacks on Taiwan.

China has over the past four years regularly staged military activities around Taiwan, including large-scale war games in 2022 and in 2023.

However, senior Taiwan lawmaker Wang Ting-yu from Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party said the latest drills appeared to be more about China making a noise than upping the ante, given it had to respond to Lai’s speech.

“They were comparatively more restrained than previous ones,” Wang, who chairs parliament’s defence and foreign affairs committee, said on social media.

Still, China has kept up a barrage of invective against Lai. The People’s Liberation Army Daily commentary, published as “the voice of the military”, said Lai was determined to act as a “pawn” for external forces to curb China’s development.

“If Taiwan independence separatist forces insist on going their own way or even take risks, the PLA will obey orders and take decisive action to resolutely smash all separatist plots,” it said.

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