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China has launched a series of military drills around Taiwan Thursday as “punishment” for the swearing-in of the island’s new president, Chinese-state media reported.

Lai Ching-te, a member of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won in the island’s presidential elections in January and was inaugurated on May 20. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated joint naval and air drills around the island in an act of intimidation and retaliation for Taiwan’s continued claim to independence.

The “Taiwan question” is one of Beijing’s most sensitive issues. China views Taiwan as a rogue territory that needs to be reunited with the mainland and demands other countries view the issue similarly. Some members of the international community are concerned China will eventually invade Taiwan and take the island by force if it doesn’t surrender peacefully.

“Those like Lai Ching-te have betrayed their nation and ancestors. What they have done is simply disgraceful,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Webin told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday, warning that Taiwanese independent forces “will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing” if they challenge China, according to the Hindustan Times.

“No matter what gimmicks they play, they will not stop China’s complete reunification and Taiwan’s return to the embrace of the motherland,” Wang said. “All ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists will see their names written on the wall of shame.”

The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command began the drills early on Thursday morning and is expected to continue the drills until Friday, PLA spokesman Li Xi told Chinese-state media. The PLA also is conducting mock “precision strikes on key targets” as part of the operations to test the “real combat capabilities of the forces of the command.”

Taiwanese security forces detected 42 Chinese fighter jets, 16 coast guard vessels and 15 naval vessels around the island and smaller neighboring islands on Thursday, according to The New York Times. None of the Chinese aircraft or vessels had entered Taiwanese territory or airspace as of Thursday.

“The [Republic of China] Armed Forces stand ready to defend our country. We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one,” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday.

The drills are some of the largest China has conducted since former U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy hosted then-Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Washington in April 2023, which prompted anger from Beijing given its opposition to bilateral relations between Taiwan and other nations. Even larger drills were held when former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

The ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan have raised international concern that China is preparing for a full-scale invasion that could prompt a war with the West. The U.S. maintains a “One China” policy and does not recognize Taiwanese independence, but considers the island a strong ally and has defense agreements to provide military equipment for defenses.

The U.S. also keeps a position of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan, not revealing whether it would militarily defend the island in the event of an incursion. The White House on several occasions has had to walk back President Joe Biden’s claims that the U.S. would involve itself in a conflict with China if it decided to invade Taiwan.

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