China conducts fresh military drills around Taiwan as tensions grow

China has reportedly conducted military exercises around Taiwan as tensions grow over US provocations, including visits by top American officials to Taipei.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, citing a spokesman for China’s People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command, reported on Friday that the drills are part of the routinized military operations put in place in response to the new situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Recent visits by US officials to Taiwan have provoked China’s anger, with Beijing calling them Washington’s direct interference in its internal affairs.

China has repeatedly warned that any threat against its territorial integrity is playing with fire and will be faced with the Beijing government’s firm response.

The military drills were carried out while Taiwan is pressing ahead with a plan to significantly increase its military budget for the next year.

Taipei on Thursday unveiled a military budget of $19.41 billion — nearly 15 percent of total government expenditure — for 2023, proposed by Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen’s cabinet.

The proposed budget needs approval by the island’s parliament.

According to Taiwan’s Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, the total budget includes funding for new fighter jets and other equipment to enhance naval and air capabilities.

“To protect national security, the overall defense budget for next year will reach Tw$586.3 billion to a record high,” a cabinet spokesman quoted Taiwanese prime minister Su Tseng-chang as saying.

The ambitious budget marks a sharp rise compared with increases of about 4-5 percent in recent years.

Tsai said the island would not change under “pressure or threats” from China. “At the same time, as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will not provoke incidents nor escalate conflicts,” she said.

China has sovereignty over Taipei, and under the internationally-recognized “one-China” policy, nearly all countries recognize that sovereignty, meaning that they would not establish diplomatic contact with its secessionist government.

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