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Radio warnings signal Taiwan’s fear of blockade exercises in China

#Radio #warnings #signal #Taiwans #fear #blockade #exercises #China

At the port of Keelung in Taiwan, dispatchers spent much of Thursday broadcasting alerts to fishing boats heading north, reminding them that China’s military was conducting fire drills nearby.

“This is the Keelung radio station,” the radio system crackled. “China’s People’s Liberation Army will hold military exercises from noon on August 4…”

The hourly alerts were a stark reminder that Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion — a danger that has intensified under China’s current leader Xi Jinping.

Throughout the day, dispatchers received calls from Taiwan’s navy detailing which ships were sailing too close to the numerous danger zones China had declared around the island.

They would then try to contact individual ships and warn them.

“We had to keep radioing 10 to 20 boats to get away and stay away,” Huang Li-yue, the 61-year-old chief of Keelung Fishing Fleet radio station, told AFP.

“There are also requests from boats for the locations of the practice sites.”

Huang said she remembered the last time this happened.

In 1995, China began testing missiles in the waters around Taiwan to protest then-President Lee Teng-hui’s visit to his alma mater university in the United States.

More missile tests were conducted a year later when Taiwan held its first direct presidential election.

But China’s latest drills — a protest against US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week — took place much closer to shore.

“The tension during the previous crisis of 1995-96 was also high, but this time it’s happening in Taiwan’s surrounding waters,” Huang said.

– ‘There’s not much we can do’ –

China’s Communist Party has never controlled Taiwan, but it considers the island part of its territory and has vowed to one day take it.

Beijing has increased its saber-rattling since Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, as she views the island as a sovereign nation rather than part of China.

Taiwan’s people have long had to adjust to threats and spikes in tension well beyond their control, as shown by China’s recent drills circling the island.

Chen Wen-ching, executive secretary of the Keelung Fishermen’s Association, said many members are unhappy at not being able to work during the peak season.

“But there’s not much we can do. They (China) do what they want,” he told AFP.

“Life is more important. You can make money later. Getting out of the area is the most important thing.”

Chou Ting-tai, 68, returned from squid fishing in Taiwan’s northern waters around noon just before the start of the Chinese exercises.

“We can avoid the areas, but psychologically there’s still stress, right? What if something went wrong with their goal and it lost its way? he said.

In nearby Taipei, many residents said they must go about their daily lives, undeterred by China’s new show of force.

“I think China is bluffing and trying to draw attention to its domestic and economic problems by holding military drills across Taiwan,” said Leo Chung, 22, after serving a number of lunchtime customers at his family’s small restaurant .

Shopkeeper Wang Yi-ting, 40, said she was confident that if China ever really attacked, Taiwan’s allies like the United States and Japan would eventually step in.

“Although Taiwan is very small, we have a place on the world stage,” Wang said.

But Karen Hsueh, 60, worried that Taiwan was just a helpless pawn in a struggle between two far stronger powers.

“I think China cannot afford to look weak and it needs to take action to show that it is not afraid of the United States,” the shopkeeper told AFP.

“To be honest, I’m more worried about China using economic means to punish Taiwan. I think Taiwan is the victim of the confrontation between China and the United States.”

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#Radio #warnings #signal #Taiwans #fear #blockade #exercises #China

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