TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan expressed serious concern on Thursday over a Chinese state media broadcast of military live fire exercises and landing drills, just days after a landslide election win by an independence-leaning opposition party in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed China’s military recently carried out “winter exercises”, but said that the pictures that accompanied the broadcast were archive video clips spliced together of drills conducted in 2015.
“It exaggerates false reporting,” the island’s defense ministry said on its website.
China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.
Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television said the 31st Group Army, based in China’s southeastern city of Xiamen, opposite Taiwan, had carried out the drills in “recent days”.
It did not give an exact location.
The channel broadcast images of amphibious armored vehicles plowing through the sea toward a landing site, helicopters firing missiles at shore locations and soldiers parachuting down from helicopters.
The report made no direct mention of the Taiwan election. China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
“This is very bad news,” said Steve Lin, first deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the ministry in charge of China affairs.
“...We’ll raise our military deployment, and at the same time we’ll deal with it via reasonable dialogue with the Chinese side. After all, it’s both sides’ responsibility to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.”
A Taiwanese military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the broadcast may be “psychological warfare” warning the new Taiwan government to tread carefully.
Right off Xiamen’s coast is Kimnen, an island controlled by Taiwan since 1949 and until the late 1970s a place regularly shelled by China.
Since Saturday’s landslide win by Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections, China has warned against any moves toward independence and said it will defend the country’s sovereignty.
Tsai has said she will maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media have also noted her pledges to maintain the “status quo” with China.
The past eight years had been marked by calm between China and Taiwan, after the election of the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as president in 2008, and his subsequent re-election.
Ma signed a series of key economic deals with Beijing and held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November in neutral Singapore.
Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive political issues, and a core concern for the Communist Party, trumping even Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.
China’s military, the world’s largest, held live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait in September, though Taiwan’s Defense Ministry described them at the time as routine.
Taiwan’s military has warned that China has practiced attacks on targets modeled on places in Taiwan. Taiwan also estimates China aims hundreds of missiles at the island.
Additional reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Nick Macfie