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Taiwan holds military drill with Paraguay amid China tension

October 9, 2018
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Taiwanese soldiers take part in a military drill in Taoyuan city, Nothern Taiwan, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.(AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

TAOYUAN, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen hosted her Paraguayan counterpart Tuesday at a military exercise in a sign of the island’s determination to withstand China’s diplomatic onslaught.

The joint land and air training exercise simulated an attempt by Chinese forces to attack a Taiwanese air base in the north of the island.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has been whittling away at the self-governing island’s pool of diplomatic allies, leaving it now with just 17, including Paraguay.

Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chong-chi said inviting Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez to view the exercise alongside Tsai would “help strengthen the friendship between the two countries” and boost future civilian and military exchanges.

Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.

Last month, the United States recalled its envoys to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama after decisions by those nations to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of diplomatic relations with China.

While Washington formally recognizes only China, it remains a close Taiwanese ally and maintains a de facto embassy in the island’s capital, Taipei.

China cut off contacts with Tsai’s government shortly after her 2016 inauguration and has repeatedly demanded that she endorse the “one-China” principle that designates Taiwan as a part of China.

Along with poaching diplomatic allies, China has blocked Taiwan’s participation in international meetings such as the World Health Assembly and has pressured multinational companies ranging from fashion brands to airlines to describe Taiwan as part of China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also sent warships, bombers and fighter planes on training missions circling the island in an attempt to intimidate Tsai’s supporters. Xi has declared that the issue of bringing Taiwan under Chinese control cannot be postponed indefinitely and some analysts believe he is determined to accomplish that feat during his time in office.

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