In the worst crisis over Taiwan in decades, the United States warned the Chinese leadership against an escalation through dangerous misunderstandings. In its maneuvers around Taiwan, the Chinese military "concentrated on attacks on land targets and long-range strikes from the air," according to the Eastern Command.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen condemned the exercises as an "irresponsible threat" not only in the Taiwan Strait Straits but also to the entire region. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pointed out during a visit to Manila that nearly 90 percent of the world's largest ships transit the 130-kilometer-wide strait that separates the mainland and Taiwan each year.
In response to the Chinese offensive drills, Taiwan's military dispatched planes, radioed warnings, mobilized missile defense systems and fired flares. Dozens of Chinese military machines and warships have been operating near Taiwan, Taiwan's military reported. Some of them would have crossed the unofficial but mostly respected cross-strait line. Drones have also been sighted again over the Taiwanese island of Kinmen (Quemoy), which is only two kilometers from China's coast. There had not been such an overflight of the island since the 1950s.
China announces new maneuvers
Beijing launched the maneuvers in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei. It is China's largest show of military power since the "missile crisis" in the mid-1990s, when the United States sent two aircraft carriers. As a further response, China suspended dialogue with the US on climate protection and through several military channels. Cooperation such as in the fight against crime, drugs and the repatriation of people who have entered the country illegally have been completely eliminated. In addition, Beijing imposed unspecified sanctions on Pelosi.
Her visit to the free island republic was the highest-ranking from the United States in a quarter of a century. The Chinese leadership is angry because it claims Taiwan as its own. It sees the island as part of the People's Republic, threatens to conquer it and vehemently rejects official contacts with other countries. But the Taiwanese have long seen themselves as independent. The maneuvers should end on Sunday. For next week, the Chinese military announced new maneuvers further north in the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea between China and South Korea.
Blinken: Beijing's actions "irresponsible"
US Secretary of State Blinken criticized the Chinese actions as "irresponsible". The exposed military channels are "crucial to prevent communication breakdowns and crises". Cooperation in the fight against crime and drugs also kept people safe in China, the US and beyond. In Manila, Blinken was particularly critical of the suspension of all climate talks with the United States: "The largest carbon dioxide emitter now refuses to take part in the fight against the climate crisis." This does not punish the USA, but the world and especially developing countries.
At the meeting of the Southeast Asian Asean community in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, he told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that an escalation was not in the interests of the United States, Taiwan and the region. "We keep our communication channels open with China - with the intention of preventing an escalation through misunderstandings and miscommunication." Taiwan's highest representative in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, said: "We don't want war. We want peace. We will do everything to de-escalate. But we will not surrender our freedom."
First rocket fired directly over Taiwan
During the maneuvers, China also launched eleven ballistic missiles in the direction of Taiwan in the past few days, one of which, according to reports, even flew directly over Taiwan and not far from the capital Taipei for the first time. Five landed east of Taiwan in nearby Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which was also taken as a warning to Tokyo to stay out of the conflict.
At the start of a visit to Taiwan, the Premier of the Caribbean state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsales, called on China to end the threats. The 117,000-strong state is among a handful of small countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from China.
EU member Lithuania had also drawn Beijing's ire simply for setting up a Taiwanese liaison office in Vilnius in 2021 that had "Taiwan" in its name. The dispute escalated into a diplomatic crisis, during which Beijing suspended relations and imposed economic sanctions. Deputy Transport Minister of the Baltic State Agnė Vaiciukevičiūtė arrived in Taipei for a visit on Sunday.