China prolongs threatening military maneuvers around Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China said Monday it was extending threatening military exercises around Taiwan that have disrupted sea and air traffic and raised significant concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade.

The announcement further increases uncertainty in the crisis that developed last week with the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

The drills will include anti-submarine drills, apparently targeting US support for Taiwan in the event of a potential Chinese invasion, according to social media posts from the eastern leadership of China’s ruling Communist Party military wing, l People’s Liberation Army.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and its leader, Xi Jinping, has focused on bringing the mainland under control, by force if necessary, of self-governing island democracy. The two sides parted ways in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.

Xi is seeking a third term as leader of the Communist Party later this year. His control over the armed forces and what he has defined as China’s “core interests” – including Taiwan, territorial claims in the South China Sea and historic adversary Japan – are key to maintaining his nationalist credentials. .

The military said the drills, involving missile strikes, warplanes and ship movements crossing the center line of the Taiwan Strait dividing the sides, are a response to Pelosi’s visit.

China ignored calls to ease tensions, and there was no immediate indication when it would end what amounts to a blockade.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China will “firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, resolutely deter the United States from containing China with the Taiwan issue. and would resolutely shatter the illusion of the Taiwanese authorities to “count on the United States for independence”.

Asked in Dover, Delaware, on Monday about China’s response to Pelosi’s visit, US President Joe Biden said: “I’m not worried, but I’m worried they’ll move as much as they do. But I don’t don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they do.

China’s slowing economic growth, which has reduced options among migrant workers as well as university graduates, has raised the specter of social unrest. The party maintained its power through total control of the press and social media, as well as the suppression of political opponents, independent lawyers and activists working on issues ranging from online freedom of expression to human rights. of LGBTQ people.

China does not allow public opinion polls and popular opinion is difficult to judge. However, he generally leans in favor of the government and its efforts to restore China’s former dominant role in the region, which brings it into conflict with the United States and its allies, including Japan and Australia.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday it detected a total of 66 aircraft and 14 warships carrying out the naval and air drills. The island responded by putting its military on high alert and deploying ships, planes and other means to monitor Chinese planes, ships and drones that “simulate attacks on the island of Taiwan and our ships. at sea”.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that the Taiwanese military will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday in response to Chinese drills.

The drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armored vehicles as well as attack helicopters, the report said, citing an unnamed source.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “support democratic Taiwan” and “stop any escalation of the regional security situation”. The Group of Seven industrialized nations also criticized China’s actions, prompting Beijing to cancel a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi.

China has halted defense and climate talks with the United States and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for his visit.

In Washington, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao said China had no reason to be “so furious” over Pelosi’s visit, which follows a long tradition of US lawmakers visiting Taiwan. .

“Well, you know, we’ve been living under threat from China for decades,” Hsiao told CBS News on Sunday. “If you have a child who is being bullied at school, you don’t say you don’t go to school. You try to find a way to deal with the bully.

Colin Kahl, the US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told reporters on Monday that Beijing’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit was a “manufactured crisis”, noting that US policy towards Taiwan and China remains unchanged and that Congress is an independent governmental body.

“Clearly the PRC is trying to coerce Taiwan, clearly they are trying to coerce the international community. And all I’m saying is we’re not going to take the bait and it’s not going to work,” he said.

He said US forces in the region would continue to operate, fly and navigate anywhere permitted by international law, including the Taiwan Strait.

During a visit to Myanmar, whose Chinese-backed military government has been accused of murdering its opponents, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington was “taking the opportunity to step up its military deployment in the region, which deserves great vigilance and a resolute boycott from all sides.

“China’s firm stance” is aimed at “seriously safeguarding peace across the Taiwan Strait and regional stability,” Wang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong called for an easing of tensions. “Australia continues to call for restraint, Australia continues to call for de-escalation, and this is not something Australia alone is calling for, and the whole region is concerned about the current situation, all the region calls for the restoration of stability,” Wong said. reporters in Canberra.

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Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim in Dover, Delaware, and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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