China conducts drills, Taiwan’s William Lai’s warned after US visit


China has initiated military drills around Taiwan as a “stern warning” to separatist forces of the self-ruled island. On Saturday, tensions between China and Taiwan escalated as Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai returned to Taipei after two stops in the United States.

China claims Taiwan to be part of its country, while the latter calls itself a sovereign and independent country. Taiwan also branded China a “neighboring bully” and called for Beijing to hold its elections instead of shaping Taipei. The country’s defence ministry announced the start of military drills with China.

Taiwan has been claimed by the People’s Republic of China as its territory since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communist forces. China has repeatedly urged US officials not to engage with Taiwanese leaders or allow them to visit the US under any circumstances, citing “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

Beijing has not ruled out using force to gain control of the democratic, self-ruled island and has increased military manoeuvres in the island’s vicinity in recent years. China passed a law in 2005 that gives Beijing a legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or appears ready to secede.

China regards Lai as a separatist based on his claims to be an “activist” for Taiwan’s independence. Taiwan and the US claim that Lai’s movements through the US were routine and had nothing to do with China, while Beijing claims that Lai’s visits were in favour of Taiwan’s “independence” and were “dishonest”. Lai is the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate for the January elections and is currently leading the polls.

In 1979, the United States severed official ties with the Taipei government and accepted the Beijing government instead. Since 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act has governed US-Taiwan relations, giving Washington a legal basis to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself without mandating that the US come to its aid if Taiwan is attacked.

While the United States has traditionally maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan in case of Chinese aggression, current US President Joe Biden has turned the dial, saying that he is ready to use force to defend Taiwan.

Taiwan’s government claims that since the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island, it has no right to claim sovereignty over it, speak for it, or represent it on the global stage. The official name of Taiwan remains the Republic of China, while the government now often stylizes it as the Republic of China (Taiwan).

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