World · August 5, 2022

Chinese military exercises continue off Taiwan

Japan’s leader on Friday asked China to halt its military exercises around Taiwan, a day after five of the Chinese missiles launched during the exercises landed in waters claimed by Japan for its sole economic use.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for an “immediate stop” of the exercises, which he said would “have a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the world,” Kyodo News reported. He spoke to reporters after meeting with President Nancy Pelosi, whose high-profile visit to Taiwan this week infuriated China and led to military exercises.

Ms. Pelosi said China “may try to prevent Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but it will not isolate Taiwan.”

At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in the waters north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, the first day of the exercises, which are expected to end on Sunday. The People’s Liberation Army of China said that “everyone hit their targets with precision.” Japan claimed that five of them had fallen into its exclusive economic zone, outside its territorial waters.

The exercises seemed to continue on Friday morning. The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense said Chinese ships and planes have crossed the informal midline in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.

The defense ministry claimed to have sent its own aircraft and Land-based ships and missile systems deployed to monitor the situation.

China claims Taiwan, an autonomous democracy off the south coast, as its territory, and considers visits by American politicians an affront. Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwan’s president, lawmakers and human rights activists on Wednesday, greeting the island’s commitment to democracy.

In addition to demonstrating Beijing’s displeasure with his visit, the drills – scheduled to be held in six areas around Taiwan – appear to have been designed as evidence to isolate the island as part of a potential invasion. Chinese leaders, including the current one, Xi Jinping, have long argued that Taiwan will eventually have to be brought under Beijing’s control, if necessary by force.

The exercises have put the United States in a delicate position. While the Pentagon wants to protect the force in the region, it is also sensitive to the risk that a military miscalculation near the island could trigger an unintended escalation.

John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said Thursday that the Pentagon had ordered the USS Ronald Reagan to “remain stationed” in the region, but some distance from the Taiwan Strait entrance. This represents a more cautious move than the one made during the Taiwan crisis in 1996, when President Bill Clinton brought aircraft carriers closer to the strait.

The United States will resume “normal air and sea transits through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks,” Kirby added, an indication that the White House wants the Chinese drills to end sooner.

On Friday morning, the United States Navy 7th Fleet sent photo on Twitter of fighters on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during what were said to be “flight operations” in the Philippine Sea, southeast of Taiwan.

It was unclear on Friday how the rest of the Chinese exercises would play out. China’s Eastern Theater Command, which includes Taiwan, said it was mobilizing more than 100 fighter jets, bombers and other aircraft, as well as more than 10 destroyers and frigates, according to Reuters.

Ben Dooley contributed to the report.