Taiwan says China drills more about intimidation, propaganda than starting war

By Thomson Reuters May 28, 2024 | 9:11 PM

(Refiles to clarify official is from Taiwan in first paragraph)

TAIPEI (Reuters) -China’s military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react extremely quickly, Taiwan’s top security official said on Wednesday.

China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as “punishment” for new President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other”, which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.

Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China’s drills was not to go to war.

“The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate, not to start a war,” he said.

The drills were to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing “has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait”, Tsai added.

China has over the past four years sent its military around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.

But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai’s bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.

“The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait’s status quo,” it said.

Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilised almost as soon as China has announced the drills early on Thursday.

“The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilisation capabilities,” he said.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)