China Sends Ships and Planes Toward Taiwan Despite Rising Criticism
China sent warships and aircraft into waters near Taiwan on Friday despite growing international criticism of its military exercises, including a call from Japan’s leader to stop them immediately.
Beijing’s defiance of the condemnation over its exercises showed its appetite for confrontation. Its military posture was also backed by its diplomacy: China’s foreign minister walked out of a dinner at a regional diplomatic forum on Thursday night in protest of criticism by the United States and other countries about its exercises.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan called for the halt after meeting in Tokyo with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose high-profile visit to Taiwan this week infuriated China and led to the military drills. On Thursday, five missiles fired by China landed in waters claimed by Japan for its exclusive economic use.
Mr. Kishida said the drills were having “a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the world,” Kyodo News reported.
At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, the first day of the exercises, which are scheduled to end on Sunday. The People’s Liberation Army of China said they had “all precisely hit their targets.” Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Friday that the drills were continuing, announcing that “several batches” of Chinese aircraft and ships had crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from the Chinese mainland.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had dispatched its own aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.
China claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy off its southern coast, as its own territory. It regards any visit by an American politician as an affront, let alone Ms. Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S. official to go there since 1997. On Friday, China said it would impose unspecified sanctions against Ms. Pelosi and her family members.
During her visit to Taiwan earlier in the week, Ms. Pelosi had met with Taiwan’s president, lawmakers and human rights activists, hailing the island’s commitment to democracy. She kept up her criticism of Beijing after meeting with Mr. Kishida on Friday, saying that China “may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places but they will not isolate Taiwan.”
Besides demonstrating Beijing’s displeasure with her visit, the drills — which China has said will be held in six zones encircling Taiwan — appear to have been designed as a trial run for sealing off the island as part of a potential invasion. China’s leaders, including the current one, Xi Jinping, have long said that Taiwan must eventually be brought under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.
Understand the China-Taiwan Tensions
What does China mean to Taiwan? China claims Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy of 23 million people, as its territory and has long vowed to take it back, by force if necessary. The island, to which Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese forces retreated after the Communist Revolution of 1949, has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.
Taiwan has faced such threats for decades, and an uneasy sense of normalcy prevailed on Friday, according to Jason Hsu, a former lawmaker with the opposition Kuomintang party. But Mr. Hsu said that many people had a false sense of security.
“We are talking about missiles from China across the sky, and everyone is sleeping like a log,” he said.
Business leaders in Taiwan, whose largest trading partner is China, have expressed concern about the potential for economic damage as tensions rise. Nine business groups, including the influential Chinese National Federation of Industries, issued a joint statement on the eve of the drills, noting the economic repercussions of the war in Ukraine and appealing to “both sides of the strait not to misjudge the situation.”
Criticism of China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait by the United States and its allies prompted Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, to walk out of a gala dinner in Cambodia’s capital on Thursday night, moments before diplomats attending a regional conference were to be seated. Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, had just issued a formal protest to China when Mr. Wang left.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Wang had accused the United States of instigating the situation around Taiwan. “It is the United States that stirred up the trouble; it is the United States that created the crisis, and it is also the United States that kept escalating tensions,” Mr. Wang told foreign ministers attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum in Phnom Penh.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking to reporters at the end of the ASEAN meeting in Cambodia, described the Chinese military exercises as a “significant escalation” and having “no justification.”
The Chinese drills have put the United States in a delicate position. While the Pentagon wants to project strength in the region, it is also sensitive to the risk that a military miscalculation near the island could set off an unintended escalation.
The Biden administration is intent on avoiding an incident like the 2001 collision between an American P-3 intelligence plane and a Chinese fighter jet over waters off China’s southern coast. The U.S. plane made a forced landing on Hainan island, a southern province of China, and more than 20 crew members were taken captive for 11 days. The plane was stripped by the Chinese and eventually returned to the United States in crates.
John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said on Thursday that the Pentagon had ordered the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan to “remain on station” in the region, but some distance from the entrance to the Taiwan Strait. That represents a more cautious move than one made during a crisis over Taiwan in 1996, when President Bill Clinton moved aircraft carriers closer to the strait.
The United States will resume “standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks,” Mr. Kirby added, an indication that the White House wants the Chinese exercises to end first.
In Washington, a former C.I.A. analyst, John Culver, said at a meeting of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday that a new low had been reached in the already fraught relationship between the United States and China.
“We’re in a new era,” said Mr. Culver, who was the national intelligence officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council from 2015 to 2018. “It’s not the mid-90s anymore. The context is entirely different.”
On Friday morning, the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet posted photos on Twitter of fighter jets on the deck of U.S.S. Ronald Reagan during what it said were “flight operations” in the Philippine Sea, southeast of Taiwan.
Ben Dooley contributed reporting.
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