Taiwan rejects China’s ‘one country, two systems’ plan after holding military drill

Taiwanese soldiers take part in a military drill in Taiwan on Aug 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Taiwan Navy leaves a port to monitoring a Chinese Navy Force vessel in Taiwan on Aug 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan Air Force soldiers operate a 35-mm anti-aircraft gun during a military drill at Taipei Songshan Airport on Augu 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS, AFP) - China’s threat of force is undiminished, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday (Aug 11), even though Beijing’s largest-ever military drills around the island seemed to be scaling down after the Chinese military said it had “completed various tasks” around Taiwan. 

China said on Wednesday it would keep up patrols, but had “completed various tasks” around Taiwan, signalling a possible end to the war games, even while keeping up pressure. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province which needs to be reunified, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has also been conducting relatively small-scale annual exercises, scheduled before the flare-up and aimed at preparing to repel an invasion.

“At present, the threat of Chinese military force has not decreased,” Ms Tsai told air force officers, according to a statement from her office.

Taiwan will not escalate conflict or provoke disputes, her office quoted her as saying, adding: “We will firmly defend our sovereignty and national security, and adhere to the line of defence of democracy and freedom.”

Taiwan also reiterated a rejection of the “one country, two systems” model proposed by Beijing in a white paper published on Wednesday, the self-ruled island’s foreign ministry said on Thursday (Aug 11).

Only Taiwan’s people can decide its future, ministry spokesman Joanne Ou told a news conference in Taipei, the capital.

China was using US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei as an “excuse to create a new normality to intimidate Taiwan’s people,” Ms Ou added.

Taiwan's drill on Thursday came after Beijing ended its largest-ever military exercises around the island, as China repeated threats to bring the self-ruled democracy under its control.

A source briefed on the matter said that the number of Chinese warships close to the Taiwan Strait’s median line – an unofficial buffer – was greatly reduced from previous days.

But several Chinese navy ships were conducting missions off Taiwan’s east coast and near Japan’s Yonaguni Island on Thursday, said the source, who is familiar with security planning. Yonaguni is the Japanese island closest to Taiwan, about 100km away.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in a statement on Thursday it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft and six Chinese navy ships in and around the Taiwan Strait, of which 11 planes had crossed the median line.

That was down from the 36 aircraft and 10 ships detected the previous day, when 17 aircraft crossed the median line.

China's state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday that Chinese military frigates recently conducted a three-day drill in the South China Sea.

CCTV did not specify if these drills were related to the set of drills around Taiwan which ended on Wednesday.

In the white paper published on Wednesday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing would "not renounce the use of force" against Taiwan and reserved "the option of taking all necessary measures".

"We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form," it said in the paper.

Beijing has raged at a trip to Taiwan last week by Mrs Pelosi -  the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years - staging days of air and sea drills around the island that raised tensions to their highest level in years.

Taiwan has accused China of using the Pelosi visit as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.

Mr Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan's Eighth Army Corps, told AFP its forces fired howitzers and target flares as part of the defensive drill on Thursday morning.

The exercise in Taiwan's southernmost county of Pingtung began at 8.30am local time and lasted about an hour, he said.

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Artillery tucked in from the coast was lined up side by side, with armed soldiers in units firing the howitzers out to sea one after the other, a livestream showed.

Taiwan held a similar drill on Tuesday in Pingtung. Both included the deployments of hundreds of troops, the military said.

The military has played down their significance, saying they were already scheduled and were not in response to China's war games.

"We have two goals for the drills, the first is to certify the proper condition of the artillery and their maintenance condition and the second is to confirm the results of last year," Mr Lou said, referring to annual drills.

Taiwan routinely stages military drills simulating defence against a Chinese invasion, and last month practised repelling attacks from the sea in a "joint interception operation" as part of its largest annual exercises.

In response to the Chinese military revealing it was bringing drills to an end on Wednesday, Taiwan's army said it would "adjust how we deploy our forces... without letting our guard down".

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