China’s recent increase in military exercises and warplane missions near Taiwan was necessary to defend sovereignty and territory, a Chinese official said yesterday, prompting Taipei to say that it had sabotaged peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
China’s military flew 56 planes off the southwest coast of Taiwan on a single day earlier this month, a single-day record that capped four days of a sustained pressure campaign involving 149 flights in international airspace.
The purpose of the maneuvers was to “fundamentally safeguard the overall interests of the Chinese nation and the vital interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said, without specifying a threat.
“The People’s Liberation Army exercises are necessary actions to defend [Chinese] national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma told reporters at a biweekly news conference in Beijing.
In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that China has sabotaged peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait with its military provocation, diplomatic coercion and economic pressure against Taiwan.
Chinese aggression has also sparked concerns from the US and other partners of Taiwan, highlighting the importance of the nation’s security and its strategic role in the international community, Ou said in a statement.
Taiwan will continue to defend the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific region, bolster its self-defense capabilities, and protect its freedom and democratic institutions, she said.
Over the past few days, several high-ranking US officials have urged Beijing to stop coercing Taiwan with military force, while reaffirming Washington’s commitment to Taiwan as “rock solid,” Ou said, thanking Washington for its support.
In a talk this week with journalists, political scientist Shelley Rigger said that while the cross-strait situation seemed more intense, it was more likely being used as a deterrent.
China is “trying to deter Taiwan from imagining that there is some kind of opportunity to make a change in its own position and also trying to deter the US from providing support or creating the impression in Taiwan that this might be a moment for Taiwan to push the envelope harder,” said Rigger, a longtime observer of Taiwanese politics at Davidson College in North Carolina.
“I also think that there is an element of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] kind of testing its own operational capabilities, and so it’s kind of killing two birds with one stone,” Rigger said. “You’re sending a strong message to Taiwan and to the US, and you’re also getting a lot of flight hours at a minimum for your military personnel.”
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan
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