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China threatens major military exercises around Taiwan during Pelosi visit

China has threatened to hold major military exercises around Taiwan this week in a furious attack on US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit the island. this island for a quarter of a century.

Shortly after Pelosi landed in Taipei late on Tuesday, China announced that the People’s Liberation Army would hold live-fire drills — exercises using live ammunition — at several points around Taiwan, including off the east coast, where the PLA has become much more active over the past year.

China’s warning comes after the PLA earlier this week held air and sea drills in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, as well as series of military drills in other coastal areas, before Pelosi flew to Taiwan.

“From the evening of August 2, the People’s Liberation Army will begin a series of joint military operations,” the PLA said. “These activities are intended as a stern deterrent against a serious increase in negative moves from the United States regarding the Taiwan issue and a stern warning against ‘Taiwan independence’ forces. ‘ plot to gain ‘independence’.”

The visit by the 82-year-old Democrat has become a test of how far Beijing will go to stave off foreign support for Taiwan. It will also test the ability of the United States and China to manage the crisis in a relationship that is increasingly strained and at its worst since the two countries established ties in 1979.

After arriving, Pelosi issued a statement saying her visit “honored the steadfast US commitment to support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy. . . when the world is faced with a choice between autocracy and democracy”.

But the trip, which was also opposed by the White House over fears it would trigger a crisis, was criticized by the Chinese government.

Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to Washington, described it as a “reckless and provocative move” while China’s foreign ministry said it would have a “serious impact” on US-China relations.

Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan while in office since Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taipei in 1997. China claims Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory and persistently warned that the PLA would “not sit idly by” if Pelosi dared to visit.

The PLA on Tuesday said it will conduct exercises in the waters and airspace north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan, and will conduct long-range live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan and the waters off the east coast of Taiwan.

David Finkelstein, a veteran PLA expert who heads the China and Indo-Pacific division at CNA, said he couldn’t remember China ever conducting major exercises off its western coast. East Taiwan.

“If the PLA were to conduct the exercises, which would not come as a surprise because they have boxed themselves in with rhetoric, one could say they would constitute a ‘show of force’,” Finkelstein said. classic.

It cannot be confirmed that the PLA has commenced any exercises that its Eastern Command considers imminent. China often claims to have conducted military operations near Taiwan, which Taipei denies has taken place.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said China’s threat to hold live-fire drills is aimed at threatening the country’s important ports and urban areas, and unilaterally harming peace and stability. regulations of the region.

“This move does not help China’s international image and hurts the feelings of people on both sides of the strait,” the defense ministry said. “China’s warming moves are clearly aimed at threatening the psyche of our citizens.”

Highlighting concerns about possible Chinese reactions, the US Air Force plane carrying Pelosi and her delegation did not fly non-stop from her previous stop from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei, instead It took a wide detour through Borneo and the Philippines.

Meia Nouwens, a PLA expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the US military may have stayed out of the skies over the South China Sea – which China claims and is increasingly militarizing – because The PLA has begun deploying missiles on artificial islands that could pose a risk to aircraft.

Hours before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the US of stirring up trouble and “emptying” the “one China” policy, in which it acknowledged Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China.

While China has threatened to invade if Taipei does not submit to its control indefinitely, some military experts argue that Beijing’s military action seeks to deter Chinese involvement. US-Taiwan rather than related to impending invasion plans. They maintain China and the United States’ determination to avoid escalation.

Ms. Pelosi flew to Taiwan over White House objections, maintaining her visit would increase tensions with Beijing that are already unnecessarily high.

Before landing in Taipei, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday warned China not to engage in any escalation in response to Pelosi’s visit.

The White House said there were signs that China was preparing a military response that could include firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait for the first time since the major crisis in Taiwan in 1995-96.

But despite analysts’ earlier suggestions that Pelosi could keep the pause short and light to avoid spiking tensions with China further, she’s spending the night and a show. Full has been arranged for her on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Pelosi will visit Taiwan’s parliament and then meet President Tsai Ing-wen. She will then have lunch at the Taipei Guest House, a Japanese colonial-era residence where the foreign ministry entertains visiting dignitaries and visits the human rights memorial.

That would make her visit more appreciated than that of Gingrich, who stayed only a few hours 25 years ago.

“The Chinese have always sought to break precedent, but we need to push,” said Vincent Chao, a former assistant to foreign minister Joseph Wu and former head of the political department at Taiwan’s representative office in Washington. back and protect precedent so that our international space is further narrowed. “

Follow Kathrin Hille and Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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