China announces new military exercises around Taiwan

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

China’s Eastern Theater Command has said it will conduct joint exercises focusing on anti-submarine operations and naval attack — confirming concerns of some security analysts and diplomats that Beijing will continue to pressure Taiwan’s defenses.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week infuriated China, which considers the autonomous island its own, and responded by launching ballistic missile tests over Taipei for the first time, as well as abandoning some lines of dialogue with Washington.

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

Shortly before the latest exercises were announced, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met with visiting Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, and told him she was moved by his determination to visit despite Chinese military pressure. Read more

“Prime Minister Gonsalves has expressed in recent days that Chinese military exercises will not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. These statements have deeply affected us,” Tsai said at a welcoming party for Gonsalves in Taipei.

It was not clear whether Tsai extended an invitation to Gonsalves before or after Pelosi’s visit. “We do not disclose internal planning or communications between governments,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in response to a Reuters question.

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Besides firing 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the previous four days of exercises, Chinese warships, fighter jets and drones maneuvered extensively around the island.

Shortly before those exercises ended on Sunday, about 10 warships from both China and Taiwan maneuvered in close quarters around the unofficial middle line of the Taiwan Strait, according to a person familiar with the situation involved in security planning.

Military talks on the shelves

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Chinese military ships, aircraft and drones simulated attacks on the island and the navy. It said it had sent planes and ships to respond “appropriately”.

Meanwhile, China’s Defense Ministry has continued its diplomatic pressure on the United States, defending its suspension of military talks in protest of Pelosi’s visit.

“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait was completely provoked and created by the US side on its own initiative, and the US side should bear the full responsibility and serious consequences of this,” Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in an online post.

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

China canceled formal talks involving theater-level leadership, defense policy coordination and naval-military consultations on Friday while Pelosi left the region.

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

Security analysts and diplomats said that China’s severing of some of its few contacts with the US military increases the risk of an accidental escalation over Taiwan at a critical moment. Read more

One US official noted that Chinese officials did not respond to calls by senior Pentagon officials amid tensions last week, but did not see this as a formal severing of ties with prominent figures, such as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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

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(Beijing newsroom and Sarah Wu in Taipei report); Writing by Greg Torode. Editing by Jerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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