Taiwan warns that China’s drills show ambitions beyond the island

PINGTUNG, Taiwan –

Taiwan warned on Tuesday that Chinese military exercises are not just a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island, but also reflect ambition to control large swaths of the Western Pacific, as Taipei held its own exercises to underscore that it is ready to defend itself. .

Angered by the recent visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China sent military ships and planes across the median line separating the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and launched missiles into the waters that surround the island. The drills, which began Thursday, have disrupted flights and shipments in one of the world’s busiest trade zones.

Ignoring calls to calm tensions, Beijing extended the exercises without announcing when they would end.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that beyond aspiring to annex the democratic island, which broke away from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, China wants to establish its 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 helping Taiwan in the event of an attack, he told a news 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 or disrupt” Taiwan’s democracy or its interactions with other nations, he added.

Wu’s assessment of China’s moves was more somber than other observers, but echoed widespread concerns that Beijing is seeking to expand its influence in the Pacific, where the United States has military bases and extensive partnership treaties. .

China has said its drills were prompted by Pelosi’s visit, but Wu said Beijing was using her trip as a pretext to intimidate movements long in the making. China also banned some Taiwanese food imports after the visit and cut off dialogue with the US on a range of issues, from military contacts to fighting transnational crime and climate change.

The United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and treat all threats against it as matters of grave concern. That leaves open the question of whether Washington would send forces if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US is obligated to do so, but staff members have been quick to retract those comments.

Through its maneuvering, China has moved closer to Taiwan’s borders and may be seeking to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace. But that would likely provoke a strong response from the military on the island, whose people strongly favor the status quo of de facto independence.

The US, Taipei’s main backer, has also been willing to confront threats from Beijing.

Beyond geopolitical risks, a protracted crisis in the Taiwan Strait, a major thoroughfare for global trade, could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruption and uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic and 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 alert but has so far refrained from taking active countermeasures.

On Tuesday, his army conducted live-fire artillery exercises in Pingtung county on the southeast coast.

The army will continue to train and build up strength to deal with the threat from China, said Maj. Gen. Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for the 8th Taiwan Army Command. “No matter what the situation is…this is the best way to defend our country.”

Taiwan, once a Japanese colony, had only loose connections to Imperial China and later seceded from the mainland in 1949. Despite never having ruled the island, China’s ruling Communist Party regards it as its own territory and has tried to isolate it diplomatically and economically in addition to increasing military threats.

Washington has insisted that Pelosi’s visit did not change its “one China policy,” which holds that the United States does not have a position on the status of the two sides, but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully.

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