March 25, 2023

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China: Last day of broad military maneuvers around Taiwan

China is set to wrap up its biggest military maneuvers around Taiwan on Sunday, an angry reaction to US Vice President Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island that has plunged ties between Beijing and Washington to their lowest point in decades.

Ms Pelosi, who is third in line in the United States, has sparked anger in China with her visit, the largest by a US elected official in 25 years. Beijing responded by suspending bilateral discussions and cooperation, including on climate change and security.

China’s military has also launched the largest military drills in its history, sending warplanes, warships and ballistic missiles in what analysts say is a mock siege and invasion of Taiwan.

Although Beijing has announced new “live fire” exercises in the Yellow Sea that separates China from the Korean Peninsula until August 15, the wider maneuvers are due to end by midday on Sunday.

Taiwanese authorities said that as of 5:00 p.m. (09:00 GMT) on Saturday, “20 Communist aircraft and 14 boats are conducting joint air-sea exercises around Taiwan,” according to the Defense Ministry.

At least 14 of them crossed the demarcation line, forcing Taipei to rush patrol planes to chase them away.

– “Attack Simulation” –

The ministry considers the drills to be “considered as a simulation of an attack against the main island of Taiwan”.

A neutral line drawn unilaterally by the US during the Cold War, in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, separating the island from mainland China, has never been recognized by Beijing.

Demonstrating just how close Taiwan has come to the coast, the Chinese military released a photo taken from one of its warships on Saturday, showing a Taiwanese naval building just a few hundred meters away.

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This shot is probably the closest to the Taiwan coast taken by Chinese forces.

The Chinese military has released a video showing one of its fighter pilots flying over the coast and mountains of Taiwan from his cockpit in full flight.

According to CCTV on Chinese state television, missiles flew over Taiwan this week during a drill across the island – a first.

Taipei has repeatedly condemned the maneuvers in recent days, slamming it as its “malicious neighbor” and calling on Beijing on Saturday to “immediately stop stoking tension and taking provocative actions aimed at threatening the Taiwanese people”.

– Warning –

Several experts explained to AFP that the drills served as a warning: Now it appears that the Chinese military will be able to carry out a complete siege of the island, while preventing American forces from coming to its aid.

“In some areas its capabilities may exceed America’s,” notes Grant Newsham, a former US Navy officer and researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

“If a (future) war is limited directly to the area around Taiwan, the Chinese navy will be a strong opponent. And (…) unless the Americans and Japanese intervene, things will be very difficult for Taiwan. ยป

The scale of the maneuvers and Beijing’s decision to withdraw from important bilateral climate and security talks have prompted a barrage of condemnation from the United States and its allies.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in Manila on Saturday that the US was “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a crisis after a “gross imbalance” according to the Chinese reaction.

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He added that China should not speak “hostage” on issues such as climate change because it is “punishing not the United States, but the whole world.”

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that “solutions to the world’s most pressing problems will be impossible without effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries.”