China launches military drills around Taiwan as ‘stern warning’

Vows to take ‘resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty’

BEIJING - China launched mili­tary drills around Tai­wan on Saturday as a “stern warning” after voicing anger over a stopover in the United States by the island’s vice president, Wil­liam Lai. 

Lai, who is the front­runner in Taiwan’s presidential election next year, stopped in New York and returned via San Francisco on a trip to Paraguay, one of a dwindling number of nations that diplomati­cally recognise Taipei. 

China has called Lai a “troublemaker” and vowed to take “resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty”. 

On Saturday, the Eastern Theater Com­mand of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army “launched joint air and sea patrols and military exercises of the navy and air force around the island of Taiwan”, state media outlet Xinhua quoted military spokesperson Shi Yi as saying. 

Xinhua said the drills were meant to test the PLA’s ability “to seize control of air and sea spaces” and fight “in real combat condi­tions”. They also were intended to serve as “a stern warning to the collusion of ‘Taiwan independence’ sepa­ratists with foreign ele­ments and their provo­cations”, it added. 

China claims Taiwan and has not ruled out using force to seize it.

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