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China holds biggest military drill near Taiwan since Pelosi trip, angered by new US arms sale

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(TibetanReview.net, Dec26’22) – In yet another major military harassment of Taiwan, a total of 71 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes carried out operations near the self-ruled island over a period of 24 hours that concluded at 6am on Dec 26, with more than half of them crossing the de facto border between the two sides, according to international media reports Dec 26, citing the defence ministry in Taipei.

It was the highest number of Chinese warplanes to take part in a Taiwan intimidation exercise since the aftermath of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August and followed President Joe Biden’s signing on Dec 23 of the US National Defense Authorization Act for 2023 which included provisions for selling more arms to Taiwan.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command on Sunday (Dec 25) organized cross-service joint combat alert patrols and joint fire strike exercises in maritime and aerial areas around the island of Taiwan after the US continued down a provocative and dangerous path of playing the “Taiwan card” to suppress China with its latest defense bill, including $10 billion in security assistance and fast-tracked weapons procurement for the island, said China’s official globaltimes.cn Dec 25.

Of the total of 71 PLA warplanes detected around Taiwan in that period – apart from seven naval ships – 47 crossed the median line, the unofficial border in the Taiwan Strait, and some of them entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone (ADIZ), the scmp.com report cited Taiwan’s defense ministry as saying.

This marks China’s third-largest number of single-day violations of Taiwan’s ADIZ, a self-declared buffer zone, and the most since Aug 5, during week-long exercises that Beijing staged to retaliate against Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, noted the ft.com Dec 26.

The report added that China has been steadily increasing the scope and scale of its air and naval operations near Taiwan in recent years, including an elevated level of activity since the August stand-off. But the exercises on Sunday were stated to be the first officially announced by the PLA since August.

“The [Taiwanese] armed forces have monitored the situation and tasked combat and air patrol aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” the ministry has said.

The $1.7 trillion spending bill signed by President Biden included a Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act to increase military aid and security cooperation between the two sides. It included $2 billion in weapons funding for Taiwan and permitted up to $10 billion in weapons sales to Taiwan.

Taiwan has remained a flashpoint in the China-US relationship since the Donald Trump presidency. Washington has moved even closer to Taipei under Biden, who has approved more than 10 arms sales to the island, the report noted.

Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be taken back, by force if necessary. The US, like most countries, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state but opposes any attempt to take the island by force. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party says the island is already sovereign while to the opposition Kuomintang, reunification is not possible without a democratic China which respects human rights.

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