August 8 (AFP) – China carried out fresh military drills around Taiwan Monday, Beijing said, defying calls for it to end its largest-ever exercises encircling the democratic island in the wake of a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi — the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in decades — ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defence.
It has also deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the self-ruled island which China claims as its territory.
Those drills were expected to draw to a close on Sunday, but neither Beijing nor Taipei confirmed their conclusion, though Taiwan’s transport ministry said it had seen some evidence suggesting at least a partial drawdown.
China then Monday said they were ongoing, reporting “the eastern theatre of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army continued to carry out practical joint exercises and training in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island.”
The exercises, the Chinese military’s Eastern Command said, were “focusing on organising joint anti-submarine and sea assault operations”.
Beijing is also Monday set to carry out live fire drills in parts of the South China Sea and Yellow Sea.
Taiwan has remained defiant throughout days of exercises by Beijing and is due to begin its own live-fire drills on Tuesday.
Su Tseng-chang, Taiwan’s premier, said China was “barbarously using military action” to disturb peace in the Taiwan Strait.
“We call on the Chinese government not to go around wielding its military power, showing its muscles everywhere and jeopardising the peace of the region,” he told reporters Sunday.
Taipei’s foreign ministry said the drills threatened “the region and even the world”.
To show how close it has got to Taiwan’s shores, the Chinese military released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
The Eastern Command also shared a photo it said was of a warship on patrol with Taiwan’s shoreline visible in the background.
Ballistic missiles were also fired over Taiwan’s capital during the exercises last week, according to Chinese state media.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as Beijing’s withdrawal from key talks on climate and defence — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington is “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a major global crisis.
And experts say the drills have revealed an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of carrying out a gruelling blockade of the island as well as obstructing US forces from coming to its aid.
“In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities,” Grant Newsham, a researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a former US Navy officer, told AFP, referring to China’s military by its official name.
“If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent — and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan.”