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Taiwan president pledges to stand with military, safeguard nation despite Chinese “external threats”

Taiwan President-elect Lai Ching-te (Photo credit: Reuters)

As China launched its two-day-long military drills, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te pledged to stand side by side with the military and safeguard Taiwan, reported Focus Taiwan.

Taiwan’s president vowed this during a visit to a Marine base on Thursday afternoon, hours after China launched two days of military exercises surrounding Taiwan.

“My responsibility is to safeguard the nation and ensure the safety of all citizens,” Lai said as he visited the 66th brigade of the Marine Corps in Taoyuan for the first time in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

In the face of “external challenges and threats, we will continue to defend the values of freedom and democracy, and protect regional peace and stability,” Lai said, noting that he would “stand alongside” all military personnel and “protect national security.”

Lai further assured all civilians as he expressed confidence in the military’s ability to stand firm at their posts and work to ensure national security, Focus Taiwan reported.

He reiterated his commitment to continue to push for defence reforms, strengthen the country’s defence capabilities, and ensure better care for all military personnel.

However, Lai did not directly comment on the previously unannounced military exercises launched by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday morning.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began a series of joint military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south and east of Taiwan Island, and the areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin” from 7:45 am on Thursday, Xinhua reported.

Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin are all Taiwan-controlled territories in the Taiwan Strait close to China’s southeast coast, Focus Taiwan reported.

Spokesperson for the Chinese PLA Eastern Theater Command, Naval Senior Captain Li Xi, said that the exercises were intended as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” without elaborating.

According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, as part of the drills, dozens of Chinese fighter jets carrying live ammunition carried out mock strikes against “high-value military targets” of the “enemy” alongside destroyers, frigates and missile speedboats.