China held live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait Wednesday, but the drills were reportedly not anywhere near as intimidating as Chinese media suggested they would be.
The drill aims to “safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Liu Jieyi told China’s state-run broadcaster CGTN Wednesday. Chinese media had previously called the drill a “check” on Taiwanese independence.
“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a Chinese spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office stressed when the drills were first announced last week, according to nationalist tabloid The Global Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a navy fleet review last week involving more than 40 naval vessels, dozens of aircraft, and thousands of service members. China put on a “show of force” in the disputed South China Sea with China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning leading the way in late March.
China’s recent moves and tough rhetoric were perceived as messages to Taiwan, as well as the U.S., but Wednesday’s provocative drills did not live up to expectations.
China is using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to startle the self-ruled island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Wednesday. Taiwan’s defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said that the drills were nothing more than short-range artillery exercises off the Chinese coast, not serious naval drills in the strait, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Taiwan’s defense ministry revealed to Agence France-Presse that while the Chinese exercises were expected to run from 8 a.m. to midnight Wednesday, no naval warships had been detected in the Taiwan Strait as of Wednesday afternoon.
It appears that China may have intentionally scaled down the drills to avoid any unnecessary provocation.
The exercise “was relatively small-scale because Beijing wanted to send a warning to the separatists and the independence-leaning [Taiwanese president] Tsai Ing-wen administration, not provoke ordinary people’s emotions,” a source close to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army told the South China Morning Post, which referred to China’s drills as a “damp squib.”
Taiwan cancelled a previously scheduled artillery drill, although this decision might have been made because the exercises concluded ahead of schedule. Taiwan has no plans to escalate the situation.
Chinese media did not comment on the specific details of the drills.
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