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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taiwan Girds for More Exercises

TAIPEI -- Taiwan readied for another week of frazzled nerves as China announced a new round of war games closer than ever to the island.


The announcement came hours after Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui struck a defiant pose toward China, telling it to stop "nagging" Taiwan with military threats.


For the exercise off its southeast coast, China staked out a square of ocean that lies between Wuchiu islet and the Chu islets, 18.5 kilometers to the south and north respectively.


Taiwanese newspapers have already speculated about a possible Chinese attack on Wuchiu, which has a population of six civilians. Such an attack could score a propaganda victory for China without involving a major battle.


But Chang You-hua, a Taiwanese military analyst, did not expect it to happen. "China wouldn't bother with an attack, but they are telling Taiwan, 'We can seize these islands whenever we want to,'" he said.


Chang Ling-chen, a political scientist at National Taiwan University, said China is telling Taiwan it is unmoved by U.S. efforts to deter war by deploying warships to the area.


China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and is trying to throttle what it sees as a Taiwanese drive for independence.


The latest ground, sea and air exercise will take place March 18 to 25, straddling Taiwan's March 23 presidential election.


It is the latest in a wave of threatening Chinese military moves that began with the test-firing of four missiles close to Taiwan over the past week, and was followed by war games southwest of the island which end March 20.


It came after Taiwan's stock market closed, having experienced two upbeat days after weeks of sliding indexes. The main index gained 1.7 percent, after adding 2 percent Thursday, and public demand for U.S. dollars eased.


But the war games continued unabated. Matsu, a fortified Taiwanese island close to China, held a major military exercise Friday, practicing repelling an invasion by parachute.


Taiwan's Defense Ministry said China's present air and sea exercise was apparently hampered by bad weather.


Earlier, President Lee, whom China accuses of leading the independence drive, said he would not bow to "intimidation and surrender to Communist China."


He and his running-mate were not "shrimps with weak feet," he said at a campaign rally, speaking highly colloquial Taiwanese to an appreciative audience of farmers outside Taipei.


Lee has ruled out sending an envoy to Beijing to appeal for a halt, his office said. But Foreign Minister Fredrick Chien said Taiwan may offer to upgrade its stalled talks with Beijing after the election, provided China stops its war games and threats.


Low-level, semi-official talks were frozen in mid-1995.


In an interview with The Associated Press, Chien said he did not rule out upgrading contact, but not under Chinese "saber-rattling," because Taiwan might be seen to be "caving in under duress."


On the broader question of talks on reunification of China and Taiwan, Chien said China first had to embrace democracy, cease threatening Taiwan with force, and lift its diplomatic blockade against the island.


"We are willing to talk about everything, but you [China] must show us some of your good intentions," he said.


Chien also dismissed critics who say the United States has overreacted by sending two aircraft carriers and other warships to the region, saying the U.S. response was "just the right dosage" and Taiwan appreciated it.