Taiwan Responds To Chinese ‘Punishment Drills’; F-16 Vipers ‘Flex Muscles’ With Deadly Missiles In Latest Images

China has launched “punishment” military drills around the self-ruled island of Taiwan just two days after the new Taiwanese president, Lai Ching-te, called on China to “stop threatening Taiwan politically and militarily” on his swearing-in ceremony on May 20.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) kicked off the two-day military drills, codenamed the ‘Joint Sword-2024A,’ on May 23, practicing encircling Taiwan. Beijing has termed the drills “punishment” for what it considers “separatist acts”: holding elections and securing a new president.

Chinese state media reported that dozens of PLA fighter jets equipped with live missiles allegedly conducted mock strikes against “high-value military targets” in coordination with rocket and navy troops. Some images online also featured China’s land-based Dongfeng ballistic missiles, but the state media did not mention whether these were used in the drills.

The exercises, intended to encircle Taiwan from the east and the west, demonstrated the PLA’s capability to attack the island from every direction. Chinese experts told the state-owned publication Global Times that the PLA likely simulated a condition in which the island is besieged from all directions.

The theater command claimed that the exercises were taking place in the Taiwan Straits, the north, south, and east of Taiwan Island, and in the vicinity of the Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin islands. It also attached a map showing nine exercise zones that encircle the island.

Senior Captain Li Xi, a spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said the exercises involved patrols of vessels and planes closing in on areas around the island of Taiwan and integrated operations inside and outside the island chain to test the command’s joint combat capabilities. The drills focused on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrol, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets.

The drills came just days after Lai Ching-te took the oath and urged the Taiwanese people not to be “swayed by external forces” in his inaugural speech. He also urged China to stop threatening the self-ruled island and emphasized that he was committed to protecting the state’s security and sovereignty.

However, the inaugural did not go down well with China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has vowed to merge it with the Chinese mainland, with force if necessary. Shortly after the president’s inauguration, Beijing warned of undefined reprisals against Taiwan. And, if the drills are any indication, it looks like China means business.

In the days leading to the president’s inauguration, China intensified its military presence in the Taiwan Strait, launching large-scale incursions near the island in what was interpreted as a warning. One observer pointed out that China enhanced its military presence around Taiwan before and after every significant political event in the island state.


As per the latest reports being posted online, the scale of these drills resembles the PLA drills conducted when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022, which was the first demonstration of China’s blatant invasion threat.

As the drills were launched, Taiwan responded to the drills by deploying forces to “defend freedom.”

A key announcement by the ministry said: “We have dispatched sea, air and ground forces to respond… to defend freedom, democracy and the sovereignty of the Republic of China,” it pointed out, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

Videos surfaced on social media showing Taiwan moving Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) supersonic anti-ship missiles, which are likely being deployed for deterrence.

Taiwan has been committed to responding to Chinese intimidation in the days leading to the inauguration. The Taiwanese Air Force conducted routine training exercises for its jet pilots “to enhance precision strike capabilities in aerial combat” earlier this month. The drills also saw F-16Vs take off from the Chiyai air base and fire Maverick missiles.

According to the latest information, the Chinese military dispatched F16 Vipers to maintain a high degree of vigilance in response to Chinese military exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.

The drill is considered to be every bit dangerous, especially as Beijing has carried out military maneuvers in waters near Taiwan, triggering fears that it could use one of these drills to launch a surprise attack on the island and catch it unaware.

F-16V firing Maverick Missiles: Screenshot
China’s Drills Imitating Taiwan Invasion 

Earlier this year, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet warned that China’s military was dangerously close to launching an unexpected offensive on Taiwan.

Adm. Samuel Paparo, whom President Joe Biden nominated as the next head of the Indo-Pacific Command, said that the PLA could suddenly switch from a large-scale drill to a big offensive as China’s ability to project force in adjacent waterways approached a critical point.

In fact, as the PLA launched the latest drills, a Chinese propaganda official, Zhao DaShuai, wrote on Platform X: “Thanks to the anti-China forces, we have now made the blockade of Taiwan a regular exercise. The next step is to make it permanent.” China has, thus, made no bones about the fact that an invasion is always on the table.

Taiwan’s administration, which disputes Beijing’s claims to sovereignty, has often pointed out that China has been engaging in “grey-zone warfare,” a strategy of employing erratic tactics—such as sending civilian ships into or near Taiwanese waters—to wear out an adversary without actually engaging in open confrontation.

As China launched the drills, a top US general in the region stated on May 23 that the Chinese military drills in the straits of Taiwan in 2023 practiced maneuvers essential to launching an invasion of the island. He said that a Chinese invasion of the island was neither imminent nor inevitable.

The Deputy Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, Lieutenant-General Stephen Sklenka, stated in a speech in Canberra, Australia, that through the previous year, the PLA staged counter-intervention operations, amphibious assaults, and a maritime and air blockade of Taiwan during the drills. “The PLA continues to exercise critical elements of a potential military invasion of Taiwan,” he said.

Lt-Gen Sklenka stated that China’s military drills were part of an ongoing pressure campaign against Taiwan that dates back to 2022 and that China’s previously infrequent breaches into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone had now become normal.

“I cannot underscore enough how devastating conflict in the Indo-Pacific region would be,” Lt-Gen Sklenka said in the speech to Australia’s National Press Club. “At stake would be untold numbers of lives, trillions of dollars in global economic damage, and maintenance of an international order that has delivered relative peace and stability over the past 80 years. And that is why we need to work together to prevent conflict.”

The drills have come as China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan, with military pundits suggesting that an invasion could be launched by 2027. The inauguration of a new staunchly pro-democracy President in Taiwan is predicted to make Beijing more aggressive in the future, and these drills may be a peek into what is in store for the island.