China holds 'biggest' military drills around Taiwan
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China holds 'biggest' military drills around Taiwan

China imposes sanctions on 12 United States firms over arms sales to Taiwan

Chinese and Taiwanese flags are displayed alongside a military airplane in this illustration taken on April 9, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
Chinese and Taiwanese flags are displayed alongside a military airplane in this illustration taken on April 9, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

TAIPEI - China held its most expansive military drills in a year around Taiwan, just days after Lai Ching-te took over as the island’s new president.

The drills on Thursday were intended to "serve 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 official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a military spokesman.

The "external references" line is likely a reference to the United States, which is Taiwan's main military backer. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US would defend the democracy of 23 million people if attacked, while China has pledged to bring Taiwan under its control, by force if necessary.

The exercises ramp up pressure on Lai, who took office in the island that makes the bulk of the world's most advanced chips on Monday. He said in his inaugural address that China should drop its threat of war and that neither side of the strait was subordinate to the other.

China has already signalled its displeasure with Lai taking office, saying his speech "sent a dangerous signal of seeking independence." It also condemned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for congratulating Lai, sanctioned a former US congressman who supported Taipei and hit US defence companies with symbolic sanctions. 

China's military drills add to the complications for the new government in Taipei. Opposition lawmakers are pushing though changes to the law that are aimed at reining in its powers, bringing thousands of people onto the streets of Tuesday night. Those demonstrations are likely to resume on Friday when the legislature takes its next steps forward on the changes.

The Chinese drills were being carried out in the Taiwan Strait; north, south and east of Taiwan; and around the offshore islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, Xinhua said. The exercises would last two days, it added.

While it was not immediately clear how many ships and planes were involved, China's military has not held exercises in so many locations around Taiwan since April of last year.

The Defence Ministry in Taipei said it was looking into the exercises.

China's sanctions on US firms

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that China has imposed sanctions on 12 US companies and their 10 executives in response to American arms sales to Taiwan, announcing its measures against Washington for the third straight day following the inauguration of the island's new leader.

The 12 firms include units of Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co. The measures include freezing their assets in China and banning their senior executives from entering the Asian country, according to 

On Tuesday, Beijing banned former US lawmaker Mike Gallagher from entry into China and froze his domestic assets. Gallagher, known for his strong stance on Chinese policies and often labelled a China hawk, led a bipartisan delegation to Taiwan in February, where he met with then President-elect Lai Ching-te.

Taiwan's former President Tsai Ing-wen and new President Lai Ching-te wave to people during the inauguration ceremony outside the Presidential office building in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday. (Photo: Reuters)

The US Secretary of State sent a congratulatory message to Lai on his inauguration Monday. On the same day, China announced similar sanctions on three US defence firms over arms sales to Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticised the United States Tuesday for sending "a seriously wrong signal" to "Taiwan independence" separatist forces and warned that Beijing would respond resolutely.

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