China Launches ‘Punishment’ Military Drills Around Taiwan Amid Tensions

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began two days of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan on Thursday calling them “punishment” for alleged “separatist acts” days after the island swore in a new democratically elected leader. The drills code-named Joint Sword-2024A aim to test the PLA’s multi-domain coordination and joint strike capabilities according to PLA Naval Senior Captain Li Xi.

The exercises which encircle Taiwan involve the army navy air force and rocket force and are being conducted in areas around the island as well as its outlying islands of Kinmen Matsu Wuqiu and Dongyin located just off China’s southeastern coast. China’s ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory and has vowed to take the island by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry condemned the drills as “irrational provocations and actions that undermine regional peace and stability” and said it had dispatched sea air and ground forces in response. In a statement, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret over China’s actions saying they unilaterally disrupt the cross-strait status quo and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

The drills pose the first real test for newly elected Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te who called on China to cease its intimidation tactics during his inauguration speech. Beijing denounced Lai’s speech with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing him as “disgraceful.” China has previously labeled Lai a “separatist” and “troublemaker” over his past remarks supporting Taiwanese independence.

Analysts say the drills are as much about playing to a domestic audience as signaling intentions internationally. Chinese state media churned out propaganda highlighting coverage of the exercises which remained a top trending topic on tightly controlled Chinese social media platforms on Thursday.