Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen thanks troops after Chinese military drills

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen thanked navy and army personnel Friday for defending the island after China sent a record number of warplanes and ships to the island this week.

Speaking to the Taiwan Navy’s 146th Fleet at the Penghu Naval Base, Tsai Ing-wen said China’s military drills earlier this week were the largest so far this year.

“Your responsibility is heavy … I want to thank you, our military brothers and sisters, for your hard work,” she said. “War, we can only stop war if we have the power to start it. “

China’s military harassment of Taiwan, which it claims as its territory, has intensified in recent years, with the Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army sending planes or ships to the island almost daily.

In a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, 47 Chinese aircraft flew across the center line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial border that was once tacitly accepted by both sides, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.

Tensions rose in August after China fired missiles into the sea and sent planes and ships across the Taiwan Strait demarcation line after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

In this regard, Tsai Ing-wen has been actively trying to reform the island’s military and defense capabilities, revitalize the shipbuilding industry, and at the same time actively purchase weapons from the United States. On Tuesday, she announced the extension of compulsory military service from four months to a year starting in 2024.

Tsai addressed the move in a speech to the military on Friday, saying Taiwan would also conduct modernization training for active-duty troops. Taiwan now requires only four months of military service from men, which is widely viewed by the public as insufficient to defend Taiwan. She said the new one-year compulsory service would not be a “waste of time”.

Tsai visited naval and army bases in Penghu, an archipelago of dozens of islands off the west coast. The 146th Fleet is actively patrolling the waters surrounding Taiwan.

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