Xi Jinping plans live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait after biggest naval exercises in China's history

Xi Jinping plans live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait after biggest naval exercises in China's historyChina is set to hold live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait next week in a move certain to ratchet tensions with Taipei, after Chinese president Xi Jinping oversaw the biggest naval exercises in the country's history. The new drills, which are planned for Wednesday, come as tensions between Beijing and Taiwan simmer over increased American support for the government of the self-ruled island. Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president, on Friday┬ápresided over her first military drills since she took office in 2016, but those exercises did not involve live fire. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have escalated in recent weeks amid speculation of a visit to Taiwan by new US national security adviser John Bolton and Washington's backing of Taiwan's plans to build an indigenous submarine force. Chinese media said a decision by Donald Trump's administration to give the go ahead for US defence contractors to help Taiwan build the submarine fleet has made war between Taiwan and China "more probable". China's drills next week will be the first in the Strait since just before the 2015 presidential election, which saw Mrs Tsai, the candidate for the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), sweep to power. Beijing has viewed the Taiwanese president with suspicion and believes she is preparing to move Taiwan towards formal independence – a move that would represent a red line for China. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech as he reviews a military display of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy in the South China Sea Credit: Li Gang/Xinhua via REUTERS China views Taiwan as a renegade province which will one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary. On Thursday President Xi presided over huge exercises in the South China Sea in an unmistakable show of force to Beijing's regional rivals. The drills involved 48 ships, among them China's sole operating aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, along with 76 helicopters, fighter jets and bombers, and more than 10,000 personnel. Chinese media said it was the largest of its kind. "The mission of building a mighty people's navy has never been more urgent than it is today," Mr Xi, dressed in army fatigues, said in remarks on the helicopter deck of one of China's most advanced destroyers. "Strive to make the people's navy a first-rate world navy." The nationalist Global Times newspaper warned in a commentary on Taiwan's drills that the island's leaders were making a gamble they couldn't afford to lose. The Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines Credit: Li Gang/Xinhua via AP "The mainland has abundant capability to take back the Taiwan authorities' bargaining chips one at a time until it deals a decisive blow to 'Taiwan independence'," the state-run newspaper said. China's state television broadcaster cited China's Taiwan Affairs Office as saying that Beijing had firm will and the ability to "thwart any kind of Taiwan independence separatist plot and action, and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity". Beijing has claimed Taiwan since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war with Mao Tse-tung's Communists. China has become increasingly assertive on the world stage since Mr Xi assumed power five years ago. The Chinese president has also oversaw the rapid modernisation of China's military – which is the world's largest. China's increasing power has caused concern among its neighbours in the South China Sea. Beijing claims nearly all of the strategic waters, despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan and several south-east Asian nations including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The US Navy has been confronting China in the region with 'freedom of navigation' exercises. The US aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Vinson have sailed through the South China Sea in recent months, angering Beijing.



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