China says aim of its drills near Taiwan is to combat ‘arrogance’ of separatists

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BEIJING, Sept 27 (Reuters) – China’s recent drills near Taiwan are aimed at combating the “arrogance” of separatist forces, the Chinese government said on Wednesday, after Taipei reported a rise in military activity in recent weeks, including exercises on land facing the island.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has said this month that it had observed dozens of fighters, drones, bombers and other aircraft, as well as warships and the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, operating nearby.

The increased frequency of China’s military activities has raised the risk of events “getting out of hand” and sparking an accidental clash, the island’s defence minister said on Saturday.

Asked at a regular news briefing in Beijing about the rise in Chinese drills, and Taiwan’s concerns about increased risk, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said the People’s Liberation Army had carried out a “series” of drills.

“The purpose is to resolutely combat the arrogance of Taiwan independence separatist forces and their actions to seek independence,” Zhu said.

“The provocation of Taiwan independence continues all day long, and the actions of the People’s Liberation Army to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity are always ongoing,” she added. “I hope that the majority of Taiwanese compatriots will clearly distinguish between right and wrong, resolutely oppose Taiwan independence, and work with us to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Taiwan’s democratically elected government says only the island’s people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with China, which Beijing has rejected.

Taiwan’s defence ministry on Wednesday reported further Chinese military movements, saying that in the previous 24 hours it had detected and responded to 16 Chinese aircraft entering the island’s air defence identification zone.

Of those, 12 crossed the median line of the Taiwan strait, which had served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides until China began regularly crossing it in August of last year.

On Thursday, Taiwan is due to launch the first of eight domestically made submarines as part of its plans to bolster defences against China.

Zhu, asked about the submarines, said efforts by Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party to “seek independence with force” would only exacerbate tensions and “push the Taiwanese people into a dangerous situation”.

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