China Ends Military Drills Around Taiwan, Taipei Labels Them as ‘Provocative’ to Int’l Order

An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
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China Ends Military Drills Around Taiwan, Taipei Labels Them as ‘Provocative’ to Int’l Order

An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.

China has ended the large-scale military drills it kicked off on Thursday morning around Taiwan and which were accompanied by a tightening of Beijing's tone towards Taipei.
The Chinese army has “successfully completed” the “Joint Sword-2024A” drills directed against Taiwan, a presenter for CCTV-7, China's state-run military news channel, said in a broadcast late Friday.
Punishing Separatists
China said the drills would serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces,” according to AFP.
The drills were launched three days after Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te took office. Beijing regards Lai as a “dangerous separatist.”
On Friday, Beijing's defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said that Lai was pushing Taiwan “into a perilous situation of war and danger.”
China called the drills a test of its ability to seize the self-ruled island.
The exercises took place all around the main island, and for the first time also targeted the Taipei-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin which lie close to the Chinese coast, according to maps released by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).
On Friday evening, China's army published images of the drills' highlights, featuring missile-launching trucks ready to fire, fighter jets taking off and naval officers looking through binoculars at Taiwanese ships.
Blatant Provocation
China's two-day military drills around Taiwan were a “blatant provocation to the international order,” Taipei said in a statement Saturday after the war games encircling the self-ruled island ended.
In a statement, Lai's presidential spokesperson Karen Kuo reiterated that ensuring peace and stability across the region was “related to the common interests of the international community.”
“However, China's recent unilateral provocation not only undermines the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait but it is also a blatant provocation to the international order, triggering serious concern and condemnation from the international community,” she said.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, when nationalists fled to the island following their defeat by the Chinese Communist Party in a civil war on the mainland.
Beijing considers the democratic island part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to bring it under its control.
It has also amped up its rhetoric, with its foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying “Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great... trend of China achieving complete unification.”
Chinese Threats
On Monday, Taiwan's President said in his inauguration speech that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other,” which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries.
Beijing's defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Friday that Lai was pushing Taiwan “into a perilous situation of war and danger.”
“Every time 'Taiwan independence' provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further, until the complete reunification of the motherland is achieved,” he said.
Political analyst Wen-Ti Sung from The Atlantic Council's Global China Hub told AFP that “Beijing is trying to use this very high-profile show of force to not only show displeasure against Taiwan, but also... to deter and dissuade other countries and partners from contemplating further cooperation or engagement of Taiwan.”
“That furthers isolation of Taiwan, which allows Beijing to negotiate with Taiwan going forward from a position of strength,” he added.
Calls for Self-Restraint
The United States, Taiwan’s strongest ally and military backer, on Thursday “strongly” urged China to act with restraint. The United Nations called for all sides to avoid escalation.
The Pentagon announced on Friday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would meet his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun at the end of the month at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of defense officials from around the world.
It will be the first meeting between the two defense leaders following a phone call in April.

 



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.