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Taiwan stages live-fire military exercises after China threats

Chinese President Xi Jinping has reasserted Beijing’s willingness to use force to bring Taiwan under Chinese control.

M60A3 Patton tanks during military exercises in Taichung, central Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)
M60A3 Patton tanks during military exercises in Taichung, central Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Taiwan has engaged in live-fire military exercises along its east coast, amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force.

Artillery and assault helicopters fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while French-made Mirage fighter jets took off from the air base at Hsinchu to the north.

The drills are Taiwan’s first since Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2 reasserted Beijing’s willingness to use military force to bring self-ruling Taiwan under Chinese control.

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A rocket is fired during a military exercise in Taichung, central Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

They also follow a new Pentagon report expressing US concerns about China’s growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan.

Taiwan’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen has made national defence a priority while refusing China’s demand that she recognise Taiwan as a part of China. That has led to Beijing ratcheting up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island of 23 million.

In a meeting with US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson in Beijing on Tuesday, China’s Chief of Staff Li Zuocheng issued a warning against foreign forces coming to Taiwan’s assistance. The US is Taiwan’s chief source of military hardware and is legally bound to respond to threats against its security.

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Military exercises in Taichung, central Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

China’s military will “pay any price” to ensure China’s sovereignty, Mr Li told Mr Richardson at their meeting. China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, as an integral part of Chinese territory.

US-China relations have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year.

President Donald Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25% on 250 billion dollars (£195 billion) of Chinese imports over complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Mr Xi responded by imposing penalties on 110 billion dollars (£86 billion) of American goods.

PA

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