China pronounces new army workouts round Taiwan

TAIPEI, Aug 8 (Reuters) – China’s military on Monday announced new military drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan – a day after the scheduled end of its biggest-ever drills to protest the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to protest in Taipei last week.

China’s Eastern Theater Command said it will conduct joint exercises focused on anti-submarine and naval attack operations – confirming fears by some security analysts and diplomats that Beijing will continue to put pressure on Taiwan’s defenses.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week infuriated China, which regards the self-governing island as its own and has responded with ballistic missile test launches over Taipei for the first time and abandoned some lines of dialogue with Washington.

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The duration and exact location of the latest exercises are not yet known, but Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six former Chinese exercise areas around the island. Continue reading

Just before the latest drills were announced, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who was visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and told him she was moved by his determination to go there despite Chinese military pressure to travel. Continue reading

“Prime Minister Gonsalves has expressed in recent days that the Chinese military exercises would not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. We were deeply touched by these comments,” Tsai said at a welcome ceremony for Gonsalves in Taipei.

It was unclear whether Tsai invited Gonsalves before or after Pelosi’s visit. “We do not disclose any internal planning or communications between governments,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said when asked by Reuters.

In addition to launching 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the previous four days of exercises, Chinese warships, warplanes and drones maneuvered extensively around the island.

Near the end of those drills on Sunday, about 10 each from China and Taiwan warships maneuvered at close range around the unofficial centerline of the Taiwan Strait, according to a person familiar with the situation who is involved in security planning.

A commentator on Chinese state television late Sunday said the Chinese military would now conduct “regular” drills on the Taiwanese side of the line.

MILITARY TALKS SET UP

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plane flies over the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, one of mainland China’s closest points to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan island, Fujian province, China, August 5, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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In Taipei, Defense Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang told reporters that Taiwan’s armed forces have handled the Chinese drills “calmly.” Earlier, the ministry said the drills used warships, planes and drones to simulate attacks on the island and its navy.

China’s designated no-fly zones and centerline crossings have “squeezed” Taiwan’s training space and will affect the normal operation of international flights and air routes going forward, the ministry said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that China is conducting ordinary military exercises “in our own waters” in an open, transparent and professional manner, adding that Taiwan is a part of China.

Asked whether China’s ongoing drills comply with international law and whether new civil air and maritime transport warnings would be issued, Wang said relevant departments have issued timely announcements in line with domestic and international law.

China’s defense ministry, meanwhile, kept up diplomatic pressure on the United States and defended its suspension of talks between military officials in protest of Pelosi’s visit.

“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is entirely provoked and created by the US side on its own initiative, and the US side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences,” Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement online post.

“The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires sincerity,” Wu said.

China canceled formal talks that included theater-level commands, defense policy coordination and military-maritime consultations on Friday when Pelosi left the region.

Pentagon, State Department and White House officials condemned the move, calling it an irresponsible overreaction.

China’s cutting of some of its few communications links with the US military is increasing the risk of an accidental escalation via Taiwan at a critical moment, according to security analysts and diplomats. Continue reading

A US official noted that amid tensions over the past week, Chinese officials have not responded to calls from senior Pentagon officials, but that they did not view it as a formal severing of ties with senior figures such as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Asked directly about these reports, the Defense Ministry spokesman said, “China’s relevant countermeasures are a necessary warning against the provocations of the United States and Taiwan and a legitimate defense of national sovereignty and security.”

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Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Sarah Wu in Taipei; Writing by Greg Torode. Edited by Gerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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