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China Warns of War Over Taiwan Amid Escalating Military Drills and Rhetoric

China issued a stark warning on Friday, signaling potential war over Taiwan and pledging to escalate countermeasures until achieving "complete reunification." This announcement coincided with Chinese military drills encircling the self-governed island.

On the second day of these exercises, Chinese warships and fighter jets surrounded Taiwan, demonstrating Beijing's capability to seize the island shortly after Taiwan's new president took office. The two-day war games began Thursday morning, involving naval vessels and military aircraft, with China vowing that the "independence forces" in Taiwan would face severe consequences.

The military maneuvers came three days after Lai Ching-te's inauguration, where his speech was condemned by China as a "confession of independence." On Friday, Beijing's defense ministry spokesperson, Wu Qian, stated that Lai had "seriously challenged the one-China principle," placing Taiwan in a "perilous situation of war and danger." Wu emphasized that China would continually advance its countermeasures in response to any provocation from Taiwan independence forces until full reunification is achieved.

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These drills are part of China's increasing campaign of intimidation, featuring extensive military exercises around Taiwan in recent years. According to Li Xi, spokesperson for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command, the exercises tested the "capability of joint seizure of power, joint strikes, and control of key territories." State broadcaster CCTV reported that fighter jets, armed with live ammunition, targeted strategic points while bombers and warships simulated coordinated attacks on important targets.

China, which has considered Taiwan a breakaway province since the end of their civil war 75 years ago, insists on eventual reunification. This long-standing dispute has turned the Taiwan Strait into a significant global flashpoint, with recent events heightening fears of potential Chinese military action to assert control over the island.

The United States, Taiwan's primary ally and military supporter, strongly urged China to exercise restraint. The United Nations also called on all parties to avoid escalating the situation.

As the drills, code-named "Joint Sword-2024A," commenced, China described them as a "strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces." Chinese military footage showed troops mobilizing and jets taking off to a stirring martial tune. CCTV reported that Chinese sailors warned their Taiwanese counterparts at sea against resisting reunification by force.

In Pingtan, a Chinese island in the Taiwan Strait, tourists observed the drills, with some posing by a sign marking the closest distance between China and Taiwan, just 68 nautical miles (126 kilometers). Chen Yan, a 60-year-old visitor from Wuhan, expressed confidence in eventual reunification, citing shared roots between the populations.

China has labeled Lai a "dangerous separatist," predicting that his actions would bring "war and decline" to Taiwan. In his Thursday speech, Lai vowed to "stand on the front line" to defend Taiwan, though he did not directly mention the drills. His inauguration speech on Monday, celebrating a "glorious" era for Taiwan's democracy, further provoked Beijing.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin issued a stern warning, using aggressive language typically found in China's propaganda outlets. He declared that Taiwan independence forces would face devastating consequences for opposing China's drive for unification. State media outlets Xinhua and the People's Daily praised the drills and criticized Lai's "treacherous behavior," promising severe repercussions.

The drills are occurring in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding areas, including the Taipei-administered islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin. While Beijing announced the exercises would conclude on Friday, analysts suggest that China could extend them or launch missiles near Taiwan, similar to the response following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit in 2022.

Taiwan's defense ministry reported that Chinese military forces approached within 24 nautical miles of Taiwan's main island. Additionally, Taiwan's coast guard noted that four Chinese vessels entered restricted waters around two Taiwanese islands, with two other vessels providing support nearby.

The escalating military drills and aggressive rhetoric from China underscore the deepening tensions over Taiwan, raising global concerns about potential conflict in the region. As China continues its campaign of intimidation and flexes its military muscles, the stakes remain high for Taiwan's sovereignty and regional stability. The international community, led by the United States, has called for restraint, but the threat of forceful reunification looms large. Taiwan, under the leadership of Lai Ching-te, remains resolute in its defense of democracy and autonomy, navigating a precarious path amid China's mounting pressures. The situation in the Taiwan Strait continues to be one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints, with the future of cross-strait relations hanging in the balance.

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