China continues military drills around Taiwan on Monday

Taiwan navy battle ships are anchored at a harbour in Keelung city, Taiwan, on Aug 5, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - China’s military continued military drills on Monday (Aug 8) in the seas and airspace around Taiwan - a day after the scheduled end of its largest ever exercises to protest against last week’s visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement it carried out combat-oriented joint exercises in sea and air space around the island on Monday, focusing on joint anti-submarine warfare and sea assault operations, reported the Global Times.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the move, saying China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own, was deliberately creating crises. It demanded Beijing stop its military actions and “pull back from the edge”. 

“In the face of military intimidation created by China, Taiwan will not be afraid nor back down, and will more firmly defend its sovereignty, national security, and free and democratic way of life,” the ministry said in a statement.

Mrs Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as suspending some lines of dialogue with Washington.

The duration and precise location of the latest drills is not yet known, but Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six earlier Chinese exercise areas surrounding the island. 

Taiwan’s defence ministry later said it had detected 39 Chinese air force planes and 13 navy ships in and around the Taiwan Strait on Monday.

Twenty-one Chinese air force planes had entered Taiwan’s air defence zone, including fighter jets that crossed the median line in the northern part of the Taiwan Strait, the ministry said. 

The continued drills confirmed the fears of some security analysts and diplomats that Beijing would continue to maintain pressure on Taiwan’s defences.

US President Joe Biden on Monday said he was not worried about Taiwan but was concerned about China’s actions in the region since Mrs Pelosi’s visit. 

“I’m concerned they are moving as much as they are,” Mr Biden said as he left for a visit to flood-ravaged Kentucky. “But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are.” 

Shortly before the latest drills were announced, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, telling him she was moved by his determination to visit despite China’s military pressure.

“Prime Minister Gonsalves has expressed in recent days that the Chinese military drills would not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. These statements have deeply touched us,” Ms Tsai said at a welcome ceremony for Mr Gonsalves in Taipei.

It was unclear if Ms Tsai had invited Mr Gonsalves before or after Mrs Pelosi’s visit.
“We don’t disclose internal planning or communications between governments,” the Taiwanese foreign ministry said when asked by Reuters.

Beyond the firing of 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the four earlier days of exercises, Chinese warships, fighter jets and drones manoeuvred extensively around the island.

Shortly before those drills ended on Sunday, about 10 warships each from China and Taiwan manoeuvred at close quarters around the unofficial median line of the Taiwan Strait, according to a person familiar with the situation who is involved with security planning.

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Military talks shelved

Taiwan’s defence ministry said Chinese military ships, aircraft, and drones had simulated attacks on the island and its navy. It said it had sent aircraft and ships to react “appropriately”.

China’s defence ministry meanwhile maintained its diplomatic pressure on the United States, defending its shelving of military-to-military talks in protest at Pelosi’s visit.

“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is entirely provoked and created by the US side on its own initiative, and the US side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in an online post.

“The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires sincerity,” Mr Wu said.

China called off formal talks involving theatre-level commands, defence policy co-ordination and military maritime consultations on Friday as Mrs Pelosi left the region.

Pentagon, State Department and White House officials condemned the move, describing it as an irresponsible over-reaction.

China’s cutting of some of its few communication links with the US military raises the risk of an accidental escalation over Taiwan at a critical moment, according to security analysts and diplomats.

One US official noted that Chinese officials had not responded to calls from senior Pentagon officials amid the tensions last week, but that they did not see this as a formal severing of ties with senior figures, such as US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Asked directly about those reports, defence ministry spokesman Wu said: “China’s relevant counter-measures are a necessary warning to the provocations of the United States and Taiwan, and a legitimate defence of national sovereignty and security.”

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