China renews threat to Taiwan as island holds drills

BEIJING (Reuters) – China renewed its threats on Wednesday to attack Taiwan and warned that foreign politicians who interact with the self-governing island are “playing with fire”.
A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the country recommitted itself in the new year to “safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “destroying plots for the independence of Taiwan” on the self-governing democracy that broke away from mainland China in 1949.
“Malicious support for Taiwan Independence among the anti-Chinese elements in a few foreign countries are deliberate provocation,” Ma Xiaoguang said at a bi-weekly press conference.
China views Taiwan as Chinese territory that must be brought under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary. A series of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan, including then-US President Nancy Pelosi and numerous European Union politicians, have spurred displays of military might on both sides.
This week, Taiwan Army is holding drills meant to reassure the public of its ability to counter threats from China ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday this month.
“The most important thing is to maintain the safety of our airspace and national security,” Air Force Lt. Col. Wu Bong-yeng told reporters at Hsinchu Air Base, just south of the capital, Taipei.
The exercises coincide with a visit by lawmakers from Germany and Lithuania – the latter Baltic state a particular target of Chinese anger for improving its ties with Taiwan.
“We call on relevant countries to … stop sending the wrong signals to separatist Taiwan independence forces and stop playing with fire on the Taiwan issue,” Ma said.
China has responded to foreign visits by staging large-scale military exercises seen by some as a rehearsal for a blockade or invasion. Beijing sends planes and warships to Taiwan almost daily, often crossing the 160 kilometer (100 mile) median line Taiwan Strait divide the sides. At the end of December, China sent a record number of 71 planes and seven ships to Taiwan – the largest such exercise in 2022.
China’s efforts to diplomatically isolate the island have left Taiwan with just 14 official diplomatic partners, though it retains strong unofficial ties with key ally the United States and more than 100 nations around the world.

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