Taiwan tracks dozens of Chinese warplanes and navy vessels off its coast on 2nd day of drills

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan tracked dozens of Chinese warplanes and navy vessels off its coast Friday on the second day of a large exercise China’s People’s Liberation Army held in response to the inauguration of the island’s new leadership.

China has issued elaborate releases to media showing Taiwan being surrounded by forces from the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. A new video on Friday showed animated Chinese forces approaching from all sides and Taiwan being enclosed within a circular target area.

Despite that, there was little sign of concern among Taiwan’s 23 million people, who have under threat of Chinese invasion since the sides divided during a bitter and bloody civil war in 1949. Taiwan’s parliament was mired in a dispute between its political parties over procedural measures Friday and business continued as usual in the bustling capital of Taipei.

The defense ministry said it tracked 49 warplanes and 19 navy vessels, as well as Chinese coast guard vessels, and that 35 of the planes flew across the median of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the sides, over a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday.

Marine and coast guard vessels, air and ground-based missile units have all been put on alert, particularly around the Taiwan-controlled island chains of Kinmen and Matsu located just off the China coast and far from Taiwan’s main island, roughly 160 kilometers (100 miles) across the Taiwan Strait.

“Facing external challenges and threats, we will continue to maintain the values of freedom and democracy,” Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te told sailors and top security officials Thursday as he visited a marine base in Taoyuan, just south of the capital, Taipei.

In his inauguration speech Monday, Lai had called on Beijing to stop its military intimidation and said Taiwan was “a sovereign independent nation in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people.”

China’s military said its two-day exercises around Taiwan were punishment for separatist forces seeking independence. It sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwan’s defenses and seek to intimidate its people, who firmly back their de facto independence.

“As soon as the leader of Taiwan took office, he challenged the one-China principle and blatantly sold the ‘two-state theory’,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Chen Binhua said in a statement Thursday night.

The one-China principle asserts that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China under Communist Party rule. Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and has been upping its threats to annex it by force if necessary.

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