TAIPEI: China announced on Friday that it would halt dialogue with the United States in several areas, including among military commanders at the theater level and on climate change, in a furor over the visit of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry said it would also suspend exchanges with Washington to counter cross-border crime and drug trafficking, all moves that Washington called “irresponsible.”
Enraged that Pelosi became the highest-profile American visitor in 25 years to the self-governing island that Beijing considers its territory, China launched military exercises in the seas and skies around Taiwan on Thursday. The live-fire drills, the largest ever conducted by China in the Taiwan Strait, are scheduled to continue until noon on Sunday.
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese military H-6K bomber is seen conducting training exercises as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force conducted a combat air patrol in the South China Sea on November 23, 2017. (PA)
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Friday it sent planes to warn Chinese planes it said entered the island’s air defense zone, some of which crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, a buffer not officer separating the two sides.
• China conducts unprecedented military exercises in Taiwan
• Pentagon says China no longer responds to its calls
• The US describes China’s measures as irresponsible
A total of 68 Chinese military aircraft and 13 navy ships flew missions in the strait, the ministry said.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said in a statement that it held air and sea exercises in northern, southwestern and eastern Taiwan on Friday “to test the joint combat capabilities of the troops.”
Three French-made Mirage 2000 fighter jets taxi on a runway in front of a hangar at the Hsinchu airbase in Hsinchu on August 5, 2022. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has repeatedly made it clear to Beijing that it is not seeking a crisis over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week during a congressional tour of Asia.
“There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalated military response,” he told a news conference on the sidelines of ASEAN regional meetings in Cambodia, adding: “Now, they have taken dangerous acts to a new level.”
Blinken stressed that the United States would not take steps to provoke a crisis, but would continue to support regional allies and conduct standard air and sea transit through the Taiwan Strait.
“We will fly, sail and operate where international law allows,” he said.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Chinese officials had not responded to calls made by senior Pentagon officials this week, but that the move was seen as a show of Chinese displeasure over Pelosi’s trip in instead of cutting the channel between top defense officials, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference after the ASEAN meetings: “I heard that US Secretary of State Blinken held his press conference and spread misinformation and He didn’t tell the truth.”
“We want to issue a warning to the United States: don’t act rashly, don’t create a bigger crisis,” Wang said.
Jing Quan, a senior official at the Chinese embassy in Washington, echoed that in a briefing: “The only way out of this crisis is for the US side to immediately take action to rectify its mistakes and eliminate the serious impact of Pelosi’s visit.
He said Washington should “avoid pushing China-US relations down the dangerous path of conflict and confrontation.”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby responded that China’s decision to suspend some communication channels was “fundamentally irresponsible.”
“There is nothing here that the United States needs to rectify. The Chinese can do a lot to reduce tensions simply by stopping these provocative military exercises and ending the rhetoric,” Kirby told reporters.
China has made no mention of suspending military talks at the highest levels, such as with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. While those conversations have been rare, officials have said it’s important to have them in the event of an emergency or accident.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plane flies over the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, one of the closest points in mainland China to Taiwan Island, in Pingtan Island, Fujian province, China, on 5 August 2022. (REUTERS)
Kirby said it was not unusual for China to shut down military talks at times of tension, but that “not all channels” between the military leaders of the two countries had been severed.
The Pentagon said that China was overreacting and that Washington was still open to building crisis communication mechanisms.
“Part of this overreaction has been to strictly limit their defense commitments when any responsible state would recognize that we need them most now,” acting Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said.
Beijing separately announced that it would impose sanctions on Pelosi personally and her immediate family in response to her “ruthless” and “provocative” actions.
Speaking at a news conference in Japan after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Pelosi said her Asia trip was “not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Friday that the island’s military has dispatched aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor ships and aircraft that briefly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
On Thursday, China fired multiple missiles into the waters surrounding Taiwan.
Japan’s Defense Ministry, which is following the exercises, reported for the first time that as many as four of the missiles flew over the Taiwanese capital, which is unprecedented. It also said that five of the nine missiles fired at its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), also for the first time, prompting a diplomatic protest from Tokyo.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry later said the missiles were high in the atmosphere and did not pose a threat.
Some Taipei residents, including Mayor Ko Wen-je, criticized the government for not issuing a missile alert, but a security expert said that might have been done to avoid stoking panic and playing into China’s hands.
“It counteracted the effect of the Chinese Communist Party’s psychological warfare,” said Mei Fu-shin, an analyst in the United States.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen urged residents not to panic, saying in a Facebook post, “Be safe, stay calm and live normally.”
Bonnie Glaser, a Washington-based Asia security specialist at the US German Marshall Fund, said China may be testing a lockdown, “showing it can lockdown Taiwan’s ports and airports and prevent shipping.”
Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s communists seized power in Beijing after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war, prompting the KMT-led government to withdraw. to the island.
Beijing has said that its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and that it reserves the right to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, by force if necessary.