Taiwan angered by PLA military drills during virus outbreak
Top Stories | Apr 14, 2020:
Anger is rising in Taiwan over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continuing to buzz the island with fighter jets and warships even as they both fight the global coronavirus pandemic.
The self-ruled democratic island has had to scramble its own fighter jets in response to recent Chinese maneuvers, designed to show that the PLA might remain unbowed by the health crisis.
The tactic, however, is winning few friends among the Taiwan people.
“As the world grapples with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s military maneuvers around Taiwan have continued unabated,” President Tsai Ing-wen said in a March 24 tweet accompanied by a picture of her visiting troops.
“Whether it’s national defense or preventing the spread of disease, our Armed Forces remain as vigilant as ever,” she added.
The PLA has ramped up drills around the island since Tsai was first elected in 2016 because she refuses to acknowledge its concept that Taiwan is part of “one China.”
There has been little let up during the devastating coronavirus outbreak that began in China.
Taipei’s Defense Ministry said four “targeted” drills have been conducted by the PLA near its borders this year, which it said was “concrete evidence of provocations and threats.”
Taiwan ran an exercise with its own F-16 fighter jets recently in response.
“China continues the drills to show to the world, as well as to assure its people, that it has maintained military strength and defense abilities in the midst of an epidemic,” said Lin Ying-yu, a military analyst at National Chung Cheng University.
The incursions have sparked anger on Taiwan social media with some even calling for Chinese jets to be shot down.
“I firmly support to government to contain the outbreak of the China/Wuhan pneumonia and resist the harassment of the communists’ military,” read one message left on Tsai’s Facebook page.
A Chinese military jet briefly crossed the median line separating the two sides in February 2020, less than a month after Tsai was reelected in a landslide.
The coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people in China. Despite its close proximity, Taiwan had just more than 300 cases and three deaths reported by March 30, 2020.
The island has been held up as a model for how to respond to the pandemic, even though Beijing ensures it is frozen out of global bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Taiwan is recognized internationally for its epidemic prevention that shows democratic Taiwan is beating authoritarian China, and this is unacceptable for China,” said Wang Ting-yu, a lawmaker in Tsai’s ruling party.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has lashed out at Taiwan for “using the outbreak to promote independence” because Taipei has signed bilateral agreements with countries, including the U.S., on epidemic prevention and also sought to join the WHO.
The PRC still claims the self-ruling island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides have been ruled separately for more than seven decades.