Fighting Censorship

Beijing deploys troops near Taiwan

The joint combat strike drills are intended to discourage separatism, according to Chinese officials

FILE PHOTO: People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy personnel stand under maritime signal flags. ©  Felix Wong / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

China has announced a military exercise near Taiwan on the eve of visits by German and Lithuanian lawmakers to the self-governed island. The drill has been described as countering “separatist forces.”

The training exercise was announced on Sunday by Colonel Shi Yi, the spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He said it would involve sea and airspace maneuvers around Taiwan, focusing on land strikes and amphibious assault action.

The exercise was “designed to test the joint combat capabilities of the troops and resolutely counteract the provocative actions of external forces and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists,” a statement said.

Taiwan is a Chinese island that served as the last bastion of nationalist forces during the 1940s civil war. It is self-governed, but is recognized as part of China by most nations.

The island’s military reported detecting at least four PLA ships on Monday, along with scores of military aircraft in the Taiwan Strait. It said Taiwan’s naval, aerial and ground assets were monitoring the situation and were ready to respond.

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The exercise comes amid a visit to Taiwan by a delegation of German MPs from the Free Democratic Party, which is part of the country’s ruling coalition. The group is being led by Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the chair of the Bundestag Defense Committee, and Johannes Vogel, a deputy chair of the party.

During their four-day trip, they will meet a number of top Taiwanese officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier Su Tseng-chang, and Wellington Koo, the chair of Taiwan’s national security council, the administration’s foreign affairs office reported. The visit is one of several by foreign MPs scheduled for this week, according to Taiwan’s diplomats.

Separately, a delegation from Lithuania headed by Laurynas Kasciunas, the chair of its parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee, arrived on the island on Monday. Another group of lawmakers came on Sunday from Paraguay, led by Carlos María Lopez, the president of the national parliament.

Beijing considers any treatment of Taiwan as a sovereign nation, including formal visits by foreign officials, as undermining the ‘One China’ policy that outlines its claim to the island. Chinese officials have accused Washington of deliberately eroding the long-standing arrangement.

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