War games begin amid warnings





Mainland Chinese forces yesterday began new live- ammunition military exercises at the south end of the Taiwan Strait, using warships and attack aircraft in Peking's latest attempt to influence the outcome of next week's presidential elections in Taiwan.

The scheduled start of the nine-day war games came as Peking and Washington traded sharp warnings that tensions in the Taiwan Strait were in danger of escalating. Taiwan's Defence Ministry said the manoeuvres involved at least 10 warships and 10 aircraft carrying out bombing and interception missions inside the target zone off China's south-east coast. It said poor weather had limited the number of planes involved. Peking's strategy appears to be to try and frighten Taiwan's voters away from supporting President Lee Teng-hui, who advocates a bigger international role for the island.

In Peking, the Chinese government's sternest words were aimed at Washington, which has sent two aircraft carriers into the region. The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Shen Guofang, said: "I want to emphasise here that the US side should be careful of sending a wrong message to the Taiwan authorities that it would support and abet the latter's splittist activities." The term "splittist" is usually used to lambast the Dalai Lama's activities regarding Tibet. Mr Shen added: "If the Taiwan authorities were to misinterpret that message, the real danger would emerge."

With Peking accusing Washington of "supporting and conniving at" Taiwanese separatist activities, the message from the United States was mixed. Sending US aircraft carriers to the vicinity of Taiwan warns the Chinese that they should curtail their military exercises near the island, said General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But, despite the ostentatious build-up of US naval forces near Taiwan, Washington is being deliberately ambiguous over how far it will go to defend the island - both to try and deter China from military action, and to stave off election-year pressures at home for more drastic measures against Peking.

Yesterday, a second US aircraft carrier battle group was on its way to the region from the Persian Gulf, as senior Chinese diplomats on a scheduled visit to Washington were told by a group of senators expert in foreign and security policy that Peking's "provocative and dangerous" behaviour was obliging President Bill Clinton to take tough measures.

But behind the scenes, the Clinton administration is trying to lower the temperature, urging Taiwan to avoid inflammatory action, and seeking to preserve a bipartisan consensus on its handling of the crisis. Thus far, it seems to be succeeding.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own