The United States has condemned China’s launch of ballistic missiles around Taiwan during major military exercises as an “overreaction”, as several Chinese ships and planes crossed the median line again on Friday.
Aggressive military displays by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began on Thursday in response to US President Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and have heightened tensions across East Asia.
Hundreds of PLA air force and navy craft are involved in the drills in six areas surrounding Taiwan and encroaching on its territorial waters. At least 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles were fired near or over Taiwan on Thursday, as dozens of warplanes and ships crossed the Median Line, an unofficial border in the Taiwan Strait that is one of the busiest transport routes in the world.
On Friday, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense announced that several PLA ships and planes crossed the median line in the morning. The ministry said it had dispatched planes and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.
“Adhering to the principle of preparing for war and not seeking war, the national army will work together to firmly defend national sovereignty and security,” he said.
US White House spokesman John Kirby said earlier that China had used Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to step up provocative military action and had “chose to overreact”.
“The temperature is quite high,” but tensions “can come down very easily by just asking the Chinese to stop these very aggressive military exercises,” he said.
In an interview with MSNBC on Thursday, Kirby said, “We’ve been following this very, very closely.”
He also warned of the calculation risk of the exercises, saying: “One of the things that is troublesome in exercises like this or missile launches like this is the risk of calculation, the risk of an error that could actually lead to some sort of conflict. ”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told an Asian meeting of senior diplomats on Friday that China’s reaction was “obviously provocative”.
Blinken, speaking at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, said China had sought to intimidate not only Taiwan but also its neighbors, an official said.
Japan’s prime minister also called for an immediate halt to the drills, after his government said at least five missiles had landed in its exclusive economic zone.
Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said on Friday that China was arbitrarily sabotaging the world’s busiest waterway with its military exercises. Su said China was an “evil neighbor flexing its muscles on our doorstep”.
Taiwan condemned the drills as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”. He confirmed that some missile trajectories passed over the main island of Taiwan, but said they took an outer trajectory and posed no threat. Astronomer Jonathan McDowell estimated that they were about 200 km in the air as they hovered over the landmass.
The exercises have been harshly criticized by foreign governments and multilateral bodies, including the G7 and the EU, while ASEAN members have called for calm. Shortly after meeting Pelosi on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the drills were a “serious issue that affects our national security and the safety of our citizens.”
As she wrapped up her Asia tour, Pelosi said the United States “would not allow” China to isolate Taiwan.
“They may try to stop Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they won’t isolate Taiwan by stopping us from going there,” she told reporters in Tokyo.
She also defended her trip to Taiwan, amid some criticism that it contributed to escalating tensions without commensurate tangible benefit.
“It’s not about me, it’s about Taiwan,” she said. “It’s about saying let’s celebrate Taiwan.”
But Beijing has doubled down on its rhetoric. On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the Japanese, European and European envoys to file “solemn representations” about their statements. According to state media, Li accused them of “distorting the facts and inverting black on white”, with their “gratuitous interference in China’s internal affairs”.
The statement repeated China’s claims that the one-China principle – a domestic Chinese policy that outlines its geopolitical claim on Taiwan – has been upheld by foreign governments. In fact, various governments have their own one-China policy that gives some recognition to China’s policy but does not always recognize Taiwan’s claim. The United States, for example, says Taiwan’s status is unresolved.
PLA exercises are expected to continue throughout the weekend. The six areas identified surround the island of Taiwan and in some places overlap Taiwan’s territorial waters which extend 12 miles from its shores. Non-APL air and sea craft have been warned to stay out of the areas, some of which are near key shipping ports and flight routes.
Korean Air Lines Co Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd said they canceled flights to and from Taipei on Friday due to the exercises, with the Korean carrier also canceling its Saturday flights and delaying Sunday flights.
Taiwanese authorities estimate that around 900 flights will be affected by the need for rerouting and said the impeded access to ports effectively amounts to a blockade.
Military analysts told state broadcaster CCTV in Beijing on Thursday that the aim was to practice a possible blockade of the island and contain its pro-independence forces.
“The goal is to show that PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is able to control all exits from the island of Taiwan, which will be a great deterrent to the secessionist forces of ‘Taiwan independence,'” said Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the Naval Research Institute. from China.
Analysts said China’s leaders are keen to project strength ahead of a crucial ruling party meeting this fall in which Xi is expected to be granted an unprecedented third term, but China is not aiming to escalate the situation in the country. beyond his control – at least for now. .
Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said: “The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war.”
With Agence France Presse