Taiwan warns Chinese drills show ambitions beyond island

PINGTUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan warned on Tuesday that Chinese military exercises are not only a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island, but also reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, as Taipei has conducted its own drills to underscore its readiness to defend itself.

Angered by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recent visit to Taiwan, China has sent military ships and planes across the middle line that separates the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and launched missiles into the waters surrounding the island. The drills, which started on Thursday, have disrupted flights and shipping in one of the busiest areas for world trade.

Ignoring calls to ease tensions, Beijing has instead extended the drills without announcing when they will end.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that beyond aimed at annexing the island democracy, which broke away from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, China wants to establish dominance in the Western Pacific. That would include controlling the East and South China Seas through the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the United States and its allies from assisting Taiwan in the event of an attack, he said during of a press conference in Taipei.

The exercises show “China’s geostrategic ambition beyond Taiwan”, which Beijing claims as its own territory, Wu said.

“China has no right to interfere with or alter” Taiwanese democracy or its interactions with other nations, he added.

Wu’s assessment of China’s maneuverings was gloomier than that of other observers, but echoed widespread concerns that Beijing is seeking to expand its influence in the Pacific, where the United States has military and military bases. extensive treaty partnerships.

China said its drills were prompted by Pelosi’s visit, but Wu said Beijing was using his trip as a pretext for bullying moves long in the making. China too bans certain Taiwanese food imports after the visit and cut the dialogue with the United States on a series of questions from military contacts to the fight against transnational crime and climate change.

Pelosi also called China’s outrage a public stunt, noting on NBC’s “Today” show that “nobody said a word” about a Senate delegation a few months ago. Later on the MSNBC news network, she said Chinese President Xi Jinping was acting like a “frightened bully”.

“I don’t think the Chinese president should control the schedules of members of Congress,” she said.

Through its maneuvers, China has moved closer to Taiwan’s borders and may seek to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace. But that would likely elicit a strong backlash from the island’s military, whose residents are strongly in favor of the status quo of de facto independence.

The United States, Taipei’s main financial backer, has also shown itself ready to deal with threats from Beijing. Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan out of respect for Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats against it as matters of serious concern.

This leaves open the question of whether Washington would send forces if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the United States has an obligation to do so – but staffers quickly walked back those comments.

Beyond geopolitical risks, a protracted crisis in the Taiwan Strait, an important thoroughfare for global trade, could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruption. and uncertainty following the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. In particular, Taiwan is a crucial supplier of computer chips to the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors.

In response to the drills, Taiwan has put its forces on high alert, but has so far refrained from taking active countermeasures.

On Tuesday, his army held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on its southeast coast.

The army will continue to train and build up forces to deal with the Chinese threat, said Major General Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s 8th Army Command. “No matter the situation…it’s the best way to defend our country.”

Taiwan, once a Japanese colony, had only loose ties to Imperial China, then broke away from the mainland in 1949. Although it never ruled the island, China’s ruling Communist Party considers it as its own territory and sought to isolate it diplomatically and economically in addition to increasing military threats.

Washington has insisted that Pelosi’s visit has not changed its ‘one China policy’, which maintains that the United States has no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute to be settled. settled peacefully.


Associated Press writer Ashraf Khalil in Washington contributed to this report.

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