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Taiwanese President Meets Soldiers Amid Large-Scale Military Drills By China

23.05.2024 13:42

Amid ‘external threats,’ William Lai Cheng te says Taiwan ‘will continue to defend regional peace.

Taiwan's President William Lai Cheng-te Thursday met soldiers amid large-scale military exercises by China around the self-governing island.

Lai, the commander-in-chief of Taiwanese forces, visited the 66th Marine Corps Brigade in northern Taoyuan city "to encourage the National Army," according to the local Central News Agency.

Without naming anyone, Lai said Taiwan was facing "external threats" but "we will continue to defend the value of freedom and democracy and protect regional peace and stability."

Lai's first visit to meet Taiwanese forces came as the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command began Thursday a joint military drill around Taiwan.

Also, it is the first time such drills have been launched since Lai was inaugurated as Taiwan's president earlier this week.

The drill encompasses the Taiwan Strait, as well as the northern, southern, and eastern regions of the Taiwan Island, along with surrounding areas, including Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin islands.

Li Xi, the spokesman for the theater command, said the army, navy, air force, and rocket force are teaming up for joint drills, called Joint Sword-2024A, from Thursday to Friday.

He said the Chinese military drills served as a "strong punishment" for the separatist acts of "Taiwan independence" forces and a stern "warning" against the interference and provocation by "external forces."

The Taiwanese president said Taipei "will continue to promote national defense reform and strengthen the overall combat capability of the national army."

"We will work together … to demonstrate a determination to protect democratic Taiwan," he said.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry reported that it detected one aircraft, eight Chinese naval vessels, and four vessels belonging to the Chinese Coast Guard operating around Taiwan.

"The aircraft entered Taiwan's southwestern and southeastern ADIZ (air defense identification zone). ROC (Republic of China) Armed Forces have monitored the situation and responded accordingly," the ministry wrote on X, referring to the Taiwanese military.

The Taiwanese ministry condemned the announcement of drills, saying that it is "jeopardizing regional peace and stability."

"We stand ready with firm will and restraint. We seek no conflicts, but we will not shy away from one," the ministry added. "We have the confidence to safeguard our national security." -

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