Taiwan, the self-governed island that China claims as part of its territory, awoke on Friday for the second consecutive day to what its authorities have described as a “maritime and air blockade” by the military drills of the Chinese armed forces.
These exercises, of unprecedented magnitude, are Beijing’s response to the controversial visit to Taiwan earlier this week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. More than 100 warplanes as well as over 10 destroyers and frigates conducted joint blockade operations in waters off Taiwan, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense denounced that at around 11am Chinese ships and fighter planes had crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial border that until now had been tacitly respected. Taipei has defined this as “a strong provocation.”
China on Friday also announced that it is canceling or suspending dialogue with the US on a number of issues ranging from military relations to climate change. It additionally said it would impose sanctions on Pelosi, without specifying which ones.
China on Thursday launched its most important military exercises in decades around Taiwan, in a show of force a day after the visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-governing island. The Chinese live-fire drills began around 12pm local time and will last until the same time on Sunday, according to state television CCTV.
The Chinese military has even launched ballistic missiles near the Matsu Islands in Taiwanese waters, according to the island’s Defense Ministry. The latter said these drills are equivalent to a “maritime and air blockade.”
The maneuvers include the closure of maritime and air space in six zones around the island, one of them about 20 kilometers from the coast of Kaohsiung, the main city in southern Taiwan. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has condemned these drills as “irresponsible” and “illegitimate” for taking place on the region’s busiest international shipping lanes and air routes.
The G-7 and the European Union have also condemned the drills in a joint statement and pointed out that “there is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, echoed the same idea in a tweet.
There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally.— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 4, 2022
We encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, act with transparency. https://t.co/b760G8L0J4
Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday at the end of a visit of just under 24 hours that angered Beijing, which considers the island part of its territory. The lawmaker is the highest-profile US official to have visited Taiwan in 25 years.
During her high-profile visit, Pelosi assured that her presence on the island was intended “to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan.” In response, China vowed to punish those who had offended it.
Taipei says it is closely monitoring the exercises and that its forces are preparing for conflict, but not looking for it.