US warns China over unwarranted provocation; says its ‘well prepared’ to deal with

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Washington: The United States has condemned the Chinese military drills in Taiwan Strait and described it as an action that is at odds with the longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region.

“Overnight, the People’s Republic of China launched an estimated 11 ballistic missiles towards Taiwan, which impacted to the northeast, the east, and southeast of the island,” John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications told reporters.

“We condemn these actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region,” Kirby said.

China has chosen to overreact and use the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait, he said.

The United States, he noted, had anticipated that China might take steps like these.

“We also expect that these actions will continue and that the Chinese will continue to react in the coming days. The United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do. We will not seek, nor do we want, a crisis,” he said.

At the same time, the United States, he said, will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific, consistent with international law, as the US has been supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific for decades.

To that end, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday directed that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the ships in her strike group will remain on station in the general area to monitor the situation, Kirby said.

The US will conduct standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks, consistent, again, with its longstanding approach to defend freedom of the seas and international law.

Beijing’s provocative actions, he noted, are a significant escalation in its longstanding attempt to change the status quo.

As just one example, over the past two years China has more than doubled the number of aircraft that they have flown over the centre line that separates China and Taiwan as compared to the time period between 2016-2020, he said.

Beijing has pursued economic coercion, political interference, and cyberattacks against Taiwan, all of which erode the cross-Strait status quo.

The United States, he said, will be resolute but also steady and responsible.

“We do not believe it is in our interest, Taiwan’s interest, the region’s interest to allow tensions to escalate further, which is why a long-planned Minuteman III ICBM test scheduled for this week has been rescheduled for the near future,” he said.

“As China engages in destabilising military exercises around Taiwan, the United States is demonstrating instead the behaviour of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception,” he said.

The United Stated, will continue to demonstrate transparency in our US ballistic missile tests through timely notifications.

That’s a practice that China has often rejected, he alleged.

“Rescheduling this test will not in any way impact the modernisation, the readiness, or the reliability of America’s safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. And the test will happen. It will be rescheduled for the near future,” he said.

In a joint statement, Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that China’s dangerous and provocative live-fire exercises around Taiwan are yet another chapter in Beijing’s unrelenting efforts to bully and coerce Taipei, and to upend cross-Strait peace and stability by changing the status quo with Taiwan.

“The extensive drills, which essentially represent a blockade, create immense risks for passengers in civilian airlines and ships on the high seas,” they said.

“To be clear, Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan provides no justification for this sort of measure. Beijing should not be under any false illusion that these military drills will lessen resolve in the United States or elsewhere, or erode our commitment to stand with the people of Taiwan and their right to determine their own future. Just the opposite,” the two Senators said.

In a show of strength, China is deploying its aircraft carrier group and a nuclear submarine in large-scale military drills in the Taiwan Strait in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s high-stakes visit to Taipei which infuriated Beijing as it claims the island as part of its territory.

Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the Naval Research Academy of the PLA, told the state-run Global Times that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drills from Thursday to Sunday around the island of Taiwan will feature its first aircraft carrier group deterrence exercise, which will establish a maritime multidimensional combat system.

The four-day military exercises were being held a day after Pelosi’s visit.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its mainland, strongly objected to her visit.

“Normally, a nuclear-powered submarine will accompany an aircraft carrier group in its mission,” Zhang said.

The expert confirmed to the daily that at least one nuclear-powered submarine has been deployed.

While the drills are organised by the PLA Eastern Theatre Command, forces from other theatre commands also participated in the exercises, Zhang said.

“This reflects the high interoperability between PLA’s various theatre commands,” he said.

The PLA Navy operates two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, while the third one, Fujian, is undergoing trials.

Zhang did not confirm which carrier is participating in the drills, or if both carriers have formed a dual-carrier group.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is grappling with how to respond to the Chinese drones.

Military observers said trying to shoot them down increased the risk of a conflict with Beijing as tensions rose following Pelosi’s visit on Tuesday, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

On the other hand, they are believed to have been used to gather intelligence about Taiwan’s military strength and preparedness on the island, which is just 3.2 kilometres from the mainland city of Xiamen, and a failure to act could encourage more operations in future, the report said.

The PLA drones were spotted flying over Quemoy, which is also known as Kinmen, on Wednesday night, hours after Pelosi left Taipei for South Korea as part of her Asia tour and the night before a series of live-fire exercises around the coast of Taiwan island started.

Troops in Quemoy fired flares to warn the drone away and maintained combat readiness, the Taiwanese defence ministry said in a statement.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fired multiple missiles toward waters near northeastern and southwestern Taiwan on Thursday, with all of them hitting targets accurately, a Chinese military spokesman said, as Beijing makes good on its promise that Taipei will pay a heavy price for hosting Pelosi.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory, despite having never controlled it and has long vowed to reunify the island with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.

Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the PLA Eastern Theatre Command, which oversees military operations in Taiwan Straits, said that rocket forces in multiple locations on the mainland launched several types of missiles carrying conventional warheads to designated waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan.

The drills tested the rocket forces’ capabilities to conduct precision attacks and area-denial tasks, Shi said.

The Rocket Force is a new wing of the Chinese military, which was created a few years ago under the reforms launched by President Xi Jinping to exclusively deal with missile systems.

The PLA will perform long-range artillery strikes and ballistic missile launches to target areas around Taiwan in the coming days, official media here quoted the military as saying.

On Wednesday, the PLA said it plans to conduct the war games in the region from August 4-7.

The drills were expected to continue till Sunday.

This is the second time this week the Chinese military announced missile test plans in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan has confirmed that the PLA has launched several Dongfeng tactical ballistic missiles capable of flying up to 500 km into waters northeast and southwest waters of the island on Thursday afternoon, a day after Pelosi left the island.

A statement from the island’s defence ministry said the firing of multiple DF series missiles began around 1350 BJT.

It is the first time mainland missiles have flown over the island.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry tweeted that it will uphold “our sovereignty and guard our territory. We stand with vigilance tirelessly to #protectourcountry. We seek no escalation but devote ourselves to liberty, democracy and the stability and security of our surrounding region.”

Taiwan also cancelled nearly 50 flights on Thursday as the Chinese navy fired artillery near the island.

The PLA Eastern Command issued two statements saying that it conducted “precision strikes” in specific areas over the east of the Taiwan Strait.

“All the missiles hit the target accurately, testing the precision strike and area denial capabilities,” the PLA statement said.

Video footage from the state-owned China Central Television showed several Dongfeng series ballistic missiles were launched from unknown bases on the mainland.

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said the drills were clearly targeting collusion between Taiwan and the United States.

“The Chinese military will do what they have said,” Tan said in a statement.

The PLA drills also came amid vocal criticism by Chinese, especially in the local social media, about the failure of China to stop Pelosi’s visit despite public assertions earlier by Beijing that it would not allow her visit, highest by a top American leader in 25 years to Taiwan to go ahead.

Pelosi’s visit was regarded as a setback for President Xi, who is widely expected to get an unprecedented third five-year term unlike his predecessors.

He is expected to be endorsed in the once-in-a-five-year Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China in the next few months.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying staunchly defended the military drills, saying “what we are taking and will be taking are a necessary and timely response and countermeasures which have been fully thought through and fully assessed, to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity, in line with international laws, and a warning to provocateurs.”

About the US State Department’s assertion that China is using Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to change the status quo, Hua, who is also the Assistant Foreign Minister, shot back asking, “What is the status quo on the Taiwan question?” “It is crystal clear that two sides on the Taiwan Strait belong to one and same China. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity have never been split. This is the real status quo on Taiwan,” she asserted.

Accusing the US of creating the crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Hua said the US is colluding with “Taiwan independence” forces.”

“The US side has been distorting, obscuring and hollowing out the One China Principle. It is playing the ‘Taiwan card’ to contain China,” she said, adding that “things would not have come this way without Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.”

She also hit back at Group of Seven (G7) Foreign Ministers’ statement, calling on China not to use the Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a “pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait”, saying they still live in an imperialist world of the past to ride roughshod over Chinese people.

“Today’s China is not the old China of 100 years ago that was humiliated and bullied. It’s time for these people to wake up from their imperialist dream,” she said.

It is the first time the PLA has staged such a massive and complicated war game in what it deemed a de facto blockade of the island with almost all the PLA drill areas taking place across the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait and also covering the sensitive eastern coast of Taiwan, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.