China intensifies military pressure on Taiwan with ‘Joint Sword-2024A’ drills

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In a significant escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, China conducted a two-day military exercise, dubbed ‘Joint Sword-2024A’, which ended on Friday, May 24, 2024. These drills, reported by CCTV-7, China’s state-run military news channel, were described as simulations of attacks aimed at testing the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capability to seize Taiwan. This exercise came shortly after Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te, labeled a “separatist” by Beijing, assumed office. President Lai’s inauguration speech, perceived by Beijing as a “confession of independence”, prompted China to term these drills as a “punishment”.

Escalation Following Presidential Inauguration

President Lai Ching-te’s assumption of office on May 20, 2024, marked a pivotal moment for Taiwan. In his inauguration speech, he stated that Taiwan and China “are not subordinate to each other”, a statement that Beijing interpreted as a declaration of independence. This assertion has exacerbated tensions between the two, with China conducting the ‘Joint Sword-2024A’ as a direct response to the speech.

In a significant escalation, China concludes military drills around Taiwan, simulating attacks.

In a significant escalation, China concludes military drills around Taiwan, simulating attacks.

China has long asserted sovereignty over Taiwan, a claim staunchly rejected by the self-governing island. The recent military activities signify a continuation of Beijing’s strategy to intimidate and coerce Taiwan into submission. The PLA’s exercise involved over 111 aircraft and numerous naval vessels, illustrating a significant show of force. According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, activities included the crossing of the median line of the Taiwan Strait by 47 Chinese warplanes, indicating an aggressive posture by the PLA.

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International Repercussions and Taiwan’s Response

The drills have drawn international concern, with Taiwan’s Presidential Office spokesperson, Karen Kuo, condemning the actions as a “blatant provocation to the international order”. Taiwan’s response has been to bolster its own defense measures, with the employment of Combat Air Patrol (CAP) aircraft, navy vessels, and coastal missile systems to monitor and respond to PLA activities. The median line of the Taiwan Strait, although unofficial, has historically served as a barrier between the two sides, with its violation by PLA forces marking a significant escalation.

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Future Outlook

Chinese military analyst Tong Zhen, from the Academy of Military Sciences, indicated that the PLA’s maneuvers came “closer than ever before” to Taiwan’s shores. The simulation of strikes on critical Taiwanese infrastructure and leadership, as reported by Xinhua, underscores the serious nature of the threat posed by these exercises.

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From an expert perspective, these drills not only demonstrate China’s increasing willingness to use military means to assert its claims over Taiwan but also reflect the deteriorating situation in terms of cross-strait relations. The continued military pressure from China could potentially destabilize the region further, impacting not only Taiwan but also the broader international community which has vested interests in the maintenance of stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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