Vice President William Lai (賴清德) yesterday said that Beijing was trying to “annex” Taiwan, while China said its recent series of drills near Taiwan are aimed at combating the “arrogance” of separatist forces.
The Ministry of National Defense earlier this month said that it had observed dozens of Chinese fighters, drones, bombers and other aircraft, as well as warships and the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, operating nearby.
The increased frequency of China’s military activities has raised the risk of events “getting out of hand” and sparking an accidental clash, Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said last week.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
Asked about the spurt in drills and Taiwan’s concerns about increased risk, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) yesterday acknowledged the drills by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which China’s armed forces have yet to explicitly mention.
“The purpose is to resolutely combat the arrogance of Taiwan independence separatist forces and their actions to seek independence,” Zhu told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
“The provocation of Taiwan independence continues all day long, and the actions of the PLA to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity are always ongoing,” she added.
She urged Taiwanese to distinguish between “right and wrong,” resolutely oppose independence, and work with China to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
China has a particularly strong dislike of Lai, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate and the front-runner to be elected in January next year, for previous comments he made in support of independence.
However, Lai has said he does not seek to change the “status quo” and has offered talks with Beijing.
The situation across the Taiwan Strait has “not improved due to the passage of time,” Lai said yesterday at the 37th anniversary of the DPP’s founding.
“China’s attempts to annex Taiwan have not changed,” he added.
The defense ministry yesterday reported further Chinese military movements, saying it had detected and responded to 16 Chinese aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the prior 24 hours, 12 of which crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
Today, Taiwan is set to launch the first of eight domestically made submarines as it bolsters its defenses against China.
Asked about the submarines, Zhu said that efforts by the DPP to “seek independence with force” would only exacerbate tensions and “push the Taiwanese people into a dangerous situation.”
In an unusual revelation last week, the ministry said that it was monitoring China’s drills in Fujian Province. Normally Taiwan provides details only of drills in the skies and waters around it.
A senior Taiwanese official familiar with security planning in the region said the information was released to show Taiwan’s surveillance and intelligence capacity.
“We can see the details and we are prepared,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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