BEIJING (AP) – China said Monday it was expanding looming military exercises around Taiwan that have disrupted shipping and air traffic and raised significant concerns about the potential for conflict in a region critical to global trade.
The exercises would include anti-submarine exercises, apparently aimed at US support for Taiwan in the event of a possible Chinese invasion, according to social media posts by the eastern leadership of the military branch of the ruling Communist Party of China, the People’s Liberation Army.
The military has said the exercises involving missile strikes, warplanes and naval movements that separated the centerline of the Taiwan Strait dividing its sides were in response to the call from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. visit to the self-ruled island last week.
China has ignored calls to calm tensions, and there was no immediate indication of when it would end, amounting to a blockade.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday it has detected a total of 66 aircraft and 14 warships conducting the naval and air exercises. The island has responded by amplifying its military and deploying ships, planes and other assets to monitor Chinese planes, ships and drones that are “simulating attacks on Taiwan Island and our ships at sea.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s official central news agency reported that the Taiwanese military will conduct artillery exercises in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday in response to the Chinese exercises.
The exercises will include snipers, combat vehicles, armored vehicles and attack helicopters, the report said, citing an anonymous source.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called on the international community to “support democratic Taiwan” and “stop any escalation in the regional security situation”. The Group of Seven Industrialized Countries has also criticized China’s actions, prompting Beijing to cancel a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi.
China has broken off defense and climate talks with the US and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for her visit.
The Biden and Pelosi administrations say the US remains committed to the “one China” policy that extends formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing while allowing robust informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
However, the US criticized Beijing’s actions in the Taiwan Strait, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling them “fundamentally irresponsible”.
“There is no need and no reason for this escalation,” Jean-Pierre said.
In Washington, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao said China had no reason to “be so outraged” over Pelosi’s visit, which follows a long tradition of US lawmakers visiting Taiwan.
“Well, you know, we’ve been living under the threat of China for decades,” Hsiao told CBS News on Sunday. “If you have a child who is bullied at school, don’t say you don’t go to school. You try to find a way to deal with the bully.
“The risks are posed by Beijing,” Hsiao said.
During a visit to Myanmar, whose Chinese-backed military government has been accused of assassinating its opponents, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington “seized the opportunity to build up its military deployment in the region, which is vigilance and resolute boycott deserves from all sides.”
“China’s determined stance” is aimed at “truly securing peace in the Taiwan Strait and regional stability,” Wang said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong called for a cooling of tensions. “Australia continues to push for restraint, Australia continues to push for de-escalation, and this is not something that only Australia is asking for, and the whole region is concerned about the current situation, the whole region is calling for stability to be restored,” said Wong. reporters in Canberra.