China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out mock missile drills on Friday, the second day of its two-day Taiwan military exercise which saw its troops moving mobile artillery and missile systems into position.

The drills began on Thursday when the PLA sent warships and fighter jets around the island, which China considers its breakaway province. This came just three days after Taiwan swore in its new president Lai Ching-te. China’s Communist regime calls Lai a “dangerous separatist”, claiming the drills were “a strong punishment for separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces.” In his inauguration speech, Lai had urged Beijing to stop its threats and said the two sides of the strait were “not subordinate to each other”. 

On Friday, the PLA conducted mock missile strikes and dispatched bombers carrying live missiles, state television CCTV said, adding that the bombers set up several attack formations in waters east of Taiwan in coordination with naval vessels.

The drills, dubbed “Joint Sword – 2024, were designed to “test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas,” the PLA said.

A senior Taiwanese official told Reuters that the drills included the mock bombing of foreign vessels. He added that several Chinese bombers conducted mock attacks on foreign vessels near the eastern end of the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines.

China also deployed several coast guard boats to conduct “harassment” drills off Taiwan’s east coast, including mock inspections of civilian ships.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry condemned China’s military exercises, calling them “irrational provocations”. The Taiwanese military also scrambled its sea, air and ground forces in response to the drills. 

The ministry added that it detected 49 Chinese aircraft, including 35 that crossed the Median Line, between Thursday morning and Friday morning. This is besides a total of 19 Chinese warships and seven Coast Guard vessels that were detected near the Taiwan Strait. 

The island has also put on alert marine and Coast Guard vessels, air and ground-based missile units, particularly around the Taiwan-controlled island chains of Kinmen and Matsu. Both islets are located just off the China coast and are far from Taiwan’s main island, roughly 160 kilometres (100 miles) across the Taiwan Strait.

A statement by the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it was paying attention to “all of the activities” in the Indo-Pacific. “The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet remains committed to upholding the rules-based international order that underpins regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” a public relations officer at the 7th Fleet told Reuters.

Animated video

The Chinese theatre command showed an animated video on Friday on its WeChat social media account of missiles being launched at Taiwan from the ground, air and sea. The missiles were then seen hitting the cities of Taipei, Kaohsiung and Hualien. “Sacred weapons to kill independence,” read words in red, written in the traditional Chinese characters Taiwan uses, at the end of the animation.

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