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President Lai pledges to safeguard Taiwan despite 'external threats'

05/23/2024 07:24 PM
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President Lai Ching-te (center) watches a marine carry a missile launcher during his visit to a military base in Taoyuan on Thursday. CNA photo May 23, 2024
President Lai Ching-te (center) watches a marine carry a missile launcher during his visit to a military base in Taoyuan on Thursday. CNA photo May 23, 2024

Taoyuan, May 23 (CNA) President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) pledged to stand side by side with the military and safeguard Taiwan during a visit to a Marine base on Thursday afternoon, just hours after China launched two days of military exercises surrounding Taiwan.

"My responsibility is to safeguard the nation and ensure the safety of all citizens," Lai said as he visited the 66th brigade of the Marine Corps in Taoyuan for the first time in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces.

In the face of "external challenges and threats, we will continue to defend the values of freedom and democracy, and protect regional peace and stability," Lai said, noting that he would "stand alongside" all military personnel and "protect national security."

Lai urged all civilians to rest assured as he expressed confidence in the military's ability to stand firm at their posts and work to ensure national security.

He reiterated his commitment to continue to push for defense reforms, bolster the country's defense capabilities, and ensure better care for all military personnel.

The president did not, however, directly comment on the previously unannounced military exercises launched by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday morning, just three days after Lai was sworn in.

The PLA kicked off a series of joint military exercises "in the Taiwan Strait, and the north, south and east of Taiwan Island, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin" from 7:45 a.m. Thursday, according to reports by China's state media Xinhua News Agency.

Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin are all Taiwan-controlled territories in the Taiwan Strait close to China's southeast coast.

Spokesperson for the theater command Li Xi (李熹) was quoted as saying the exercises were intended as "strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces," without elaborating.

(By Yeh Chen and Teng Pei-ju)

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