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Taiwan: China conducts drills ahead of German MPs arrival

January 9, 2023

The team of German lawmakers arrived in Taiwan as defense officials reported the detection of Chinese warplanes. Beijing said it had conducted patrols and combat exercises around Taiwan.

China Luftmanöver Taiwan
China announced that it had carried out military drills around Taiwan againImage: Gong Yulong/Xinhua/AP Photo/picture alliance

A high-ranking parliamentary delegation from Germany landed in Taiwan for a four day visit on Monday.

The team arrived as Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense reported that Chinese warplanes had been detected in it's airspace.

On Sunday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced that it had carried out military drills around Taiwan.

Chinese forces had organized "joint combat readiness patrols and actual combat drills" in the sea and airspace around Taiwan, read a statement from the PLA.

PLA drills aims to counter "separatist forces" in Taiwan

The Chinese military said its exercises were focused on land strikes and sea assaults.

Some 57 PLA aircraft and 4 PLA Naval vessels were detected around Taiwan, said a statement by Taiwan's Defense Ministry. "28 of the detected aircraft had crossed the media line of the Taiwan Strait," it said.

The aim of China's exercise was to test joint combat abilities and "resolutely counter the provocative actions of external forces and Taiwan independence separatist forces," said the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command.

This is the  second such exercise in less than a month when 43 Chinese aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line, which is an unofficial buffer between the two regions.

German visit a 'sign of solidarity'

Chair of Germany's parliamentary defense committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, is leading the German delegation and said that the visit marked a "sign of solidarity" with Taiwan. Strack-Zimmermann added that the delegation will discuss the current "threat situation."

German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger is also scheduled to visit Taipei in spring, which will be the first visit by a member of the German Cabinet in 26 years.

On Sunday, the neoliberal Free Democratic Party's (FDP) Johannes Vogel tweeted a photo of himself and his FDP colleague Strack-Zimmermann on the flight to Taiwan.

The first meetings on Monday were with fellow lawmakers in Taiwan, with German lawmaker Vogel describing Taiwan's situation as "very complex."

He said both Germany and Europe "support a One-China Policy" but told lawmakers: "We support Taiwan when it comes to making it totally clear that military aggression and the threat of military aggression coming from Beijing is unacceptable."

German vice chancellor: 'We've made up our mind about China'

China became Germany's biggest trading partner in 2016.

Highlighting how  Germany's dependence on Russia for natural resources before the Ukraine invasion, Strack-Zimmermann warned that "it can only be to our disadvantage to make ourselves dependent economically on autocratic states."

Germany's visit upsets China

China, which views the democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory, has been carrying out regular military incursions into Taiwan's air and maritime space for the past three years.

President Xi has reacted with growing anger to the flurry of visits by Western politicians to the island and opposed any official exchange with Taiwan.

Last year, as a protest to former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Beijing ramped up military pressure on Taipei by launching its largest war games in decades.

Taiwan under increasing pressure from Chinese military: Ava Shen, Eurasia Group

Berlin's diplomatic venture to Taipei has already drawn barbs from China.

As part of its response to the visit, China Monday invoked Germany's "painful" history — an apparent reference to the country's wartime record.

"The root cause of the Taiwan problem is precisely that the law of the jungle, hegemonism, colonialism, militarism and nationalism were rampant in the world, and China suffered deeply from them," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

"Germany has [experienced] a profound and painful historical lesson in this regard," he added.

"We urge these German politicians to earnestly abide by the One-China principle."

Earlier this year, in response to rising tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific region,  Germany sent 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia.

In August last year, a German frigate, Bayern, set sail for the Indo-Pacific for the first time in 20 years. 

It was denied a port visit by China.

rc, ns/rs (Reuters, AFP)