Taiwan’s military said Thursday that its forces are closely monitoring the unprecedented Chinese exercises taking place in the waters around the island. Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement that the military is “ready for war but will not seek it.”
“The Ministry of National Defense confirms that it will comply with the principle of preparing for war without seeking it, and not escalating the conflict and provoking disputes,” the statement said.
China began its military drills around Taiwan on Thursday, China’s state television channel (CCTV) announced, in the largest ever exercise in the vicinity of the island claimed by Beijing.
“The exercises have started,” the channel said in a message posted on the Weibo social network. These maneuvers come in response to a visit that US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made to Taiwan the previous day, which Beijing considered a serious provocation.
In this context, the representative of the European Union’s foreign policy, Josep Borrell, condemned the planned Chinese military exercises around Taiwan on Thursday.
“There is no justification for using a visit as an excuse for hostile military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for lawmakers from our country to make international visits,” Borrell tweeted. said from Cambodia, where he is holding talks. with regional powers.
And on Wednesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the Chinese military exercises “irresponsible” and warned of the danger of the situation spiraling out of control.
For their part, the foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN) warned against any “provocative actions” during their meeting in Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital).
They said in a joint statement that the situation “could lead to destabilization of the region and thus ultimately to miscalculations, dangerous confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences between the great powers.”
Nancy Pelosi’s visit to this self-governing island lasted less than 24 hours, but it angered Beijing; Because Pelosi is the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taipei in 25 years.
Pelosi resolutely emphasized that the United States will not abandon the island, which is governed by a democratic system and lives under the constant threat of invasion by the Chinese military.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded that “those who insult China will definitely be punished.”
The Global Times, citing military analysts, reported that the exercises will take place on an “unprecedented” scale; Because missiles will fly over Taiwan for the first time.
“This is the first time that the Chinese military has fired live ammunition and long-range artillery fire across the Taiwan Strait,” said the newspaper, famous for its nationalist dialect.
As a precautionary measure to ensure safety, the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration has banned ships from entering the affected areas.
The exercises will take place in a series of areas surrounding Taiwan – some just 20 kilometers from the Taiwanese coast – and will continue until Sunday afternoon.
Siege of the island
“If the Taiwanese forces deliberately clashed (with the Chinese military) and accidentally fired a shot, they (the Chinese military) would respond forcefully and the Taiwanese side would bear all the consequences,” a Chinese military source told AFP. said, on condition of anonymity.
The island’s authorities have condemned this program, stressing that it threatens the security of East Asia.
“Some Chinese maneuver areas overlap (…) with Taiwan’s territorial waters,” said Sun Lifang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry, condemning the “irrational actions aimed at challenging the international order”.
The ministry said the Taiwanese military fired a flare projectile on Wednesday night to repel a drone flying over Kinmen Island, just 10 kilometers from the Chinese mainland city of Xiamen. He did not specify the type of drone or its source.
Beijing stresses that these drills – as well as other limited exercises that have begun in recent days – are a “necessary and legitimate measure” after Pelosi’s visit.
“The United States is the instigator and China is the victim. China is in a position of legitimate self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that the drills were aimed at simulating a “siege” of the island and included “attacking targets at sea, hitting targets on land and controlling the airspace.”
The hypothesis of an invasion of Taiwan, home to 23 million people, remains unlikely, but it has been strengthened since the election of the current president, Tsai Ing-wen, in 2016.
Unlike previous governments, Tsai of the Independence Party refuses to recognize that the island and the mainland are part of “one China”.
In recent years, foreign officials and members of parliament have also visited the island, angering Beijing.
In response, China, led by President Xi Jinping, who refuses to compromise on sovereignty issues, is seeking to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and put increasing military pressure on the island.
The result is that the Taiwan Strait has become an arena of serious tension between the United States and the Taiwanese authorities, and the Chinese authorities are obliged to confirm their determination in their position with the approach of the Chinese Communist Party Congress.
Unless there is a surprise, Xi Jinping will be re-elected to the party leadership for a third term in this autumn congress. However, experts assured AFP that China does not want the current situation to deteriorate.
“They are vigilant and don’t want any escalation out of control,” Chung Jae Ian, a security expert at the National University of Singapore, told AFP.
Titus Chen, professor of political science at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University, said for his part that an “accidental war” that breaks out due to an accident is “the last thing Xi Jinping wants” before the CPC Congress.
Amanda Hsiao, China analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank, notes that these exercises “represent a clear escalation compared to China’s military activities around Taiwan and the previous crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 1995-1996.”
She emphasized that “Beijing is indicating by its step that it rejects any sovereignty” of the Taiwanese authorities on the island.