China admits it is testing ability to ‘seize power’ in second day of Taiwan drills

China admits it is testing ability to ‘seize power’ in second day of Taiwan drills

China deployed nearly 50 warplanes and 19 naval vessels around Taiwan on Friday, the second day of major military drills which it described as a test of its ability to “seize power” on the island.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it tracked the Chinese aircraft and warships, as well as a large number of Chinese coastguard vessels, throughout their drills on Friday, at times bringing the two sides’ militaries into extremely close proximity amid spiraling tensions in the region.

Beijing has launched the drills to express its extreme disapproval over a change in Taiwanese leadership. The island’s new president Lai Ching-te, who is seen as a less cautiously anti-Beijing figure than his predecessor, has urged China to “accept the reality” of the island’s de facto independence and cease its threats of force.

Xi Jinping has instead done the opposite, launching his most expansive military drills yet as “punishment” for Mr Lai’s comments.

On Friday, the Chinese military declared the exercises (named Joint Sword-2024A) were designed to “test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas.” Analysts say putting “A” in the name is an implicit threat from Beijing, suggesting there are more drills to come before the year is out.

Despite the openly aggressive nature of its war games, China claimed it was the Taiwanese leadership creating “a perilous situation of war and danger,” and that Beijing would go “further” if provoked.

Photos released by China showed Taiwan being surrounded by forces from the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. An animated video released on Friday showed Chinese forces approaching from all sides, enclosing Taiwan within a circular target area.

A Chinese vessel, Nantongcarried out combat readiness patrols and practical drill missions in the Taiwan Strait, with Taiwanese ship Zheng He Following just 0.6 nautical miles behind, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

Taiwan has put its marine and coastguard vessels, air- and ground-based missile units on alert, especially around the Taiwan-controlled island chains of Kinmen and Matsu, which are located just off the Chinese coast and far from Taiwan’s main island, some 100 miles away across the Taiwan Strait.

The last drills of this scale came in the aftermath of 2022’s visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the US House of Representatives. Those involved a simulation of an economic blockade of the island, however, not an all-out invasion – and did not cover so wide an area including groups of Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast.

Alongside the military exercises, which on Friday included bombers flying off China’s east coast in attack formations and mock bombings of pretend “foreign” vessels, Chinese coastguard boats have been accused of “harassment” drills, including mock inspections of civilian ships, according to a senior Taiwanese security official.

China’s coastguard defended its actions and said it had conducted “law enforcement drills” in waters east of Taiwan on Friday, focused on training in verification and identification, warning and repulsion.

Speaking halfway through the Chinese military drills on Thursday, Mr Lai said: “Facing external challenges and threats, we will continue to maintain the values ​​of freedom and democracy.” He was shown meeting sailors and top security officials on a visit to a marine base in Taoyuan.

The Xi Jinping administration has denounced Mr Lai as a “separatist” and calls the democratically governed island a renegade province, seeing it as its own territory despite Taiwan enjoying widespread international recognition of its self-sufficiency.

Washington, which has diplomatically and militarily backed Taiwan’s self-governance, is closely watching the rising tensions in the strait.

The US Navy 7th Fleet is paying attention to “all of the activities” in the Indo-Pacific, a public relations officer of the fleet said, adding that it takes “very seriously” its responsibility to deter aggression in the region.