China says Taiwan drills served to test its ability to 'seize power' over island

Beijing on Friday said ongoing drills encircling Taiwan were testing the military's ability to seize power over the self-ruled island, days after a new president was sworn in.

China's military kicked off the war games Thursday morning, surrounding Taiwan with naval vessels and military aircraft, while vowing the blood of "independence forces" on the island would flow.

The exercises -- codenamed "Joint Sword-2024A" -- come after Lai Ching-te took office as Taiwan's new president this week and made an inauguration speech that China denounced as a "confession of independence".

The drills are part of an escalating campaign of intimidation by China that has seen it carry out a series of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan in recent years.

The two-day exercises are testing the "capability of joint seizure of power, joint strikes and control of key territories", said Li Xi, spokesman for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command.

The United Nations called for all sides to avoid escalation, while the United States -- Taiwan's strongest ally and military backer -- "strongly" urged China to act with restraint.

- 'Strong punishment' -

As the drills got under way, Beijing said they would serve as "strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces".

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