China on Friday announced an end to missile tests in the Taiwan Strait but added to tensions in the region by revealing that new ground, sea and air exercises near the mainland will begin Monday and last through next week’s presidential election in Taiwan.
The announcement of the new exercises, scheduled for March 18-25 in the mainland-held Haitan island group off the coast of Fujian Province, came a day after China appeared to be pulling back from its campaign of military intimidation before Taiwan’s first direct presidential election.
“This amounts to an escalation of their military exercises with the intention of intimidating Taiwan,” commented Tai Ming Cheung, a Hong Kong-based expert on the People’s Liberation Army. “The primary purpose is to show that they are capable of taking Taiwan territory.”
Chinese state television accompanied its report on the new exercises with stridently patriotic film footage of four M-9 missiles launched in the past week to targets off the Taiwan coast.
The five-minute telecast was followed by the reading of an editorial in today’s editions of the People’s Daily and People’s Liberation Army Daily newspapers condemning the March 23 presidential election and attacking Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-hui as a secret advocate of independence for Taiwan.
“If Lee Teng-hui thinks that under the cloak of a ‘popularly elected president’ he can open a market for the so-called ‘Taiwan Sovereignty Independence,’ he is doomed to complete failure,” the editorial stated.