Blinken: Chinese military exercises are a “significant escalation”

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that Chinese military exercises targeting Taiwan, including missiles fired into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, represent a “significant escalation” and that it urged Beijing to back down.

China has launched the exercises following a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan that infuriated Beijing, which claims the self-governing island as its own territory.

Blinken, however, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia that Pelosi’s visit was peaceful and did not represent a change in US policy toward Taiwan, blaming the China to use it as a “pretext to increase provocation”. military activities in and around the Taiwan Strait.

He said the situation had led to “vigorous communication” at the East Asia Summit meetings in Phnom Penh that he and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended with ASEAN countries. , Russia and others.

“I reiterated the points we have made publicly as well as directly to Chinese counterparts over the past few days, yet again, that they should not use the visit as a pretext for war, escalation, provocative actions, that there is no possible justification for what they have done and urge them to stop these actions,” he said.

Blinken did not sit one-on-one with Wang, but said he had already spoken with China’s foreign minister about the possibility of a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan. before it took place in meetings in Bali, and had clarified the US position.

China on Friday announced unspecified sanctions against Pelosi for his visit. A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said she had ignored China’s concerns and resolute opposition to her trip.

Pelosi received a euphoric reception as the first US House speaker and senior US official to visit Taiwan in more than 25 years.

China opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments and has accused the United States of breaking the status quo with Pelosi’s visit. US insists there has been no change in its ‘one China’ stance of recognizing Beijing’s government, while allowing informal relations and defensive ties with Taipei .

Despite China’s aggressive reaction to the visit, Blinken said the United States would also not alter its “commitment to the security of our allies in the region” and that the Department of Defense had ordered the gate group -planes USS Ronald Reagan “to remain in station”. in the general area to monitor the situation.

“We will fly, navigate and operate wherever international law permits,” he said. “We will continue to operate standard air and sea transits across the Taiwan Strait, consistent with our longstanding approach of working with allies and partners to maintain freedom of navigation and overflight.”

At the opening of the East Asia Summit, Mr. Wang patted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the shoulder as he entered the room and gave a quick wave to Mr. Lavrov, already seated, before sitting down. Lavrov responded with a wave.

Blinken, who entered the room last, didn’t even glance at Lavrov as he sat down half a dozen chairs away, or at Wang who sat further down at the same table as Lavrov.

Prior to the Phnom Penh talks, the US State Department indicated that Blinken did not intend to meet one-on-one with either of the men during the meetings.

After the meetings, Lavrov told reporters that there were a lot of “fiery statements” about the consequences of Pelosi’s visit.

“There have been some pretty cutting statements from our Chinese partners, which we support,” he told reporters. “And there have been responses from the United States and Japan that it’s none of China’s business and that the declared policy of supporting the one-China principle does not mean asking permission to visit Taiwan in Beijing. Surely this is a strange logic.

The talks came a day after WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced of drug possession and sentenced to nine years in prison by Russia in a politically charged case amid antagonisms sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken said the conviction and sentence “aggravate the injustice done to him.”

“This highlights our very serious concern about the Russian legal system and the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda by using individuals as political pawns,” he said.

Blinken suggested the possibility of a prisoner swap for Griner and another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan, but Lavrov told reporters that such a deal could only be decided by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the US President. Joe Biden.

“We are ready to discuss this subject, but to discuss it within the framework agreed by Presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov said on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting.

China on Thursday canceled a foreign ministers’ meeting with Japan to protest a statement by the Group of Seven industrialized nations that there was no justification for Beijing’s military drills, which virtually encircle Taiwan.

“Japan, together with other G-7 members and the EU, made an irresponsible statement accusing China and confusing good and evil,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told Reuters. Beijing.

When Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa began speaking at the East Asia Summit on Friday, Lavrov and Wang walked out of the room, according to a diplomat in the room who spoke under the guise of anonymity in order to discuss the private session.

After the Chinese missile launches in the Japanese economic zoneBlinken said the United States stood “strongly in solidarity” with Japan following the “dangerous actions China has taken.”

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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