China’s military exercises near Taiwan enter second day amid heightened tensions

China’s extensive military exercises near Taiwan, spanning its army, navy, air, and rocket forces, aim to pressure Taiwan’s new leader, Lai Ching-te.

In a display of military prowess aimed at increasing pressure on Taiwan’s new leader Lai Ching-te, China continued its large-scale military exercises surrounding the island for a second consecutive day on Friday. The manoeuvres, which involved China’s army, navy, air, and rocket forces, were conducted to test capabilities for “seizing control of crucial areas,” according to state-run China Central Television.

Following Monday’s inauguration of Lai, whom Beijing condemns as a separatist, the mainland deployed dozens of warplanes, destroyers, and escort ships in the Taiwan Strait region. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported the presence of 49 Chinese military aircraft, 19 navy vessels, and seven China Coast Guard ships operating near the self-ruled island within 24 hours.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command, responsible for the Taiwan Strait region, described the drills as a “strong punishment” for those advocating independence for the island and issued a “stern warning” against external interference and provocation.

Chen Binhua, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, defended the exercises as “a just act to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” warning of “resolute measures” against separatist activities.

The United States urged China to exercise restraint, emphasizing that Beijing’s actions risked escalation and undermined long-standing regional peace and stability. In his inaugural speech, Lai asserted Taiwan’s sovereignty as an independent nation, emphasizing that it is not subordinate to the mainland while pledging to maintain the status quo.

China’s latest military drills near Taiwan echo similar exercises conducted in August 2022 and twice in 2023, prompted by high-level contacts between U.S. officials and Taiwan. Since the civil war in 1949, China and Taiwan have been governed separately, with Beijing seeking reunification with the island, even if it means resorting to force.