China begins military exercises near Taiwan after Nancy Pelosi’s visit

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — China unleashed a show of force against Taiwan on Thursday, launching missiles into the sea and threatening the island’s territorial waters in retaliation against Taipei. home of United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a controversial visit.

The military exercises sent tensions in the Taiwan Strait hitting its highest level in decades, raising fears of a dangerous miscalculation in one of the world’s most charged geopolitical hotspots.

As the drills began, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command carried out long-range live-fire drills and “precision strikes” on the eastern parts of the strait. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry says the PLA fired 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles in waters off northeast and southwest Taiwan on Thursday afternoon.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan ushers in new phase of China’s pressure campaign

About 10 Chinese navy ships crossed the center line of the strait on Wednesday evening and remained in this area until noon on Thursday, while Chinese military planes also crossed the unofficial maritime border on Thursday morning, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source briefed on the developments. A day earlier, during Pelosi’s visit, 22 Chinese military planes crossed the line, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.

Pelosi’s visit to Taipei this week infuriated Chinese leaders, who claimed the high-level delegation was a violation of China’s territorial rights and a deliberate provocation amid deteriorating US-China relations. In response, Chinese authorities announced military exercises in six areas around Taiwan, which Taiwanese officials described as equivalent to a “sea and air blockade”.

China’s ruling Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, but Beijing claims de facto independent democracy of 23 million people is an inalienable part of its territory and is threatening to seize it by force.

The White House had urged China not to overreact, saying Pelosi’s trip signaled no change in US policy. But the Chinese military exercises, which will continue until Sunday, represent Beijing’s efforts to set a new standard of encroachment on its rival. In 2020, China denied the existence of the median line in the Taiwan Strait, after years of largely adhering to the informal boundary that has helped prevent conflict in the 100-mile-wide waterway.

“Beijing could use Pelosi’s visit as an opportunity to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” said Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group.

The Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, quoted an unnamed Chinese military expert describing the drills as a “new start” for the PLA’s activities around Taiwan, which would not be limited to their previous areas and would instead take place “regularly on the island of Taiwan”. Door step.”

In the past, China has taken advantage of periods of increasing geopolitical tension to alter previously accepted norms of military behavior. In 2012, during a standoff with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu, China launched coastguard patrols in the area. These patrols continue today.

This week’s six maneuver exclusion zones affect Taiwan on all sides and include an area in the east of the island for the first time – a way of demonstrating China’s ability to target Taiwanese forces operating in from bases in Hualien and Taitung.

“It’s quite clear that they’re going to simulate how they might block Taiwan in the future,” said Mr. Taylor Fravel, director of the security studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Crowds gathered in Xiaoliuqiu, off the southwest coast of Taiwan’s main island, on Thursday to watch for signs of Chinese firepower. Lee Chih-Hsiang, 38, who runs an inn on the island, said his guests were mostly worried about whether the drills would affect their ability to dive.

“I told them not to worry. If China were to invade, they would have come already,” he said. “It’s not something we can stop. Worrying is useless. If we have to go to war, we will go to war.

Hsiao Wen-ming, president of the Donggang Fishermen’s Association in Pingtung, near Taiwan’s south coast, said he was worried about the safety of local fishermen. The possibility of further exercise will make them uncomfortable going out to sea, which will impact long-term livelihoods.

“The Communist Party does what it wants. What if it happens again?” he said.

Lu Li-shih, a former lieutenant commander in the Taiwanese navy, said the purpose of conducting drills in Taiwanese territorial waters was to intimidate locals.

“They want regular residents to see,” he said, “The goal is to hurt morale.”

Taiwan said the island’s armed forces had launched defense systems and were monitoring surrounding areas. “We are not looking for escalation, but we are not backing down when it comes to our security and sovereignty,” the defense ministry said. job on Twitter.

The planned exercises are closer to Taiwan than the Chinese retaliatory exercises during the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-96. Three of the six exclusion zones encroach on the 12 nautical mile coastline that Taiwan claims as its territorial waters.

During the stalemate of the 1990s, China fired missiles that landed near the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung after then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui visited the United States.

This time the crisis comes at a sensitive time for Chinese President Xi Jinping as he prepares to take on an unprecedented third term at a policy meeting in the fall. The timing of the exercises, after Pelosi’s departure from Taiwan, may signal Beijing’s desire to avoid a direct confrontation with the United States.

How Taiwan reacted to Pelosi’s visit, from ‘welcome’ to ‘American witch’

“It was directed at Taiwan,” said Ivan Kanapathy, a former deputy senior director for Asia at the White House National Security Council who served in the Trump and Biden administrations, of China’s response.

“But if military aircraft approach within 12 nautical miles, it will be difficult to ask Taiwan to show restraint. They would have every right to shoot anything on their territory,” he said.

Chinese military experts told CCTV that the exclusion zones were intended to show China’s ability to control the narrowest point of the Taiwan Strait, as well as the point where the Bashi Channel in southern Taiwan meets the Pacific Ocean, and the shipping lanes that lead to the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung.

Meng Xiangqing, director of the Strategic Research Institute at the PLA-run National Defense University, described the approach as “closing the door and beating the dog”.

Nakashima reported from Washington. Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.

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