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Taiwan warned on Tuesday that Chinese military exercises are not only a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island, but also reflect its ambition to control large parts of the western Pacific as Taipei has conducted its own exercises to underline that it is ready. to defend themselves.
Outraged by the recent visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, China has sent military ships and planes across the centerline separating the two sides into the Taiwan Strait and launched missiles into the waters around the island. The exercises, which began Thursday, have disrupted flights and shipping in one of the busiest zones for world trade.
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Beijing ignored calls to calm tensions and instead expanded the exercises without announcing when they will end.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that in addition to seeking to annex the island democracy, which split from the mainland during the civil war in 1949, China wants to establish its dominance in the western Pacific. That includes taking control of the East and South China Seas through the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the US and its allies from aiding Taiwan in an attack, he told a news conference in Taipei.
The exercises show China’s “geostrategic ambition beyond Taiwan,” which Beijing considers its own territory, Wu said.
“China has no right to interfere with or change Taiwan’s democracy or its interactions with other nations,” he added.
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Wu’s assessment of China’s maneuvers was more grim than that of other observers, but echoed widespread concerns that Beijing wants to expand its influence in the Pacific, where the US has military bases and extensive treaty partnerships.
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China has said the exercises were prompted by Pelosi’s visit, but Wu said Beijing used her trip as a pretext for harassing moves long in the making. China also banned some Taiwanese food imports after the visit and broke dialogue with the US on a range of issues, from military contacts to fighting cross-border crime and climate change.
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The US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan out of respect for Beijing, but is legally obliged to ensure that the island can defend itself and treat all threats against it as serious concern. That leaves open the question of whether Washington would send troops if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US should do this, but staff members have quickly reversed those comments.
Its maneuvers have brought China closer to Taiwan’s borders and may be trying to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace. But that would likely provoke a strong response from the island’s military, whose people strongly support the status quo of de facto independence.
The US, Taipei’s main lender, has also shown willingness to confront Beijing’s threats.
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Geopolitical risks aside, a protracted crisis in the Taiwan Strait, a major artery for global trade, could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already experiencing disruption and uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. In particular, Taiwan is a vital supplier of computer chips to the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors.
Taiwan has stepped up its forces in response to the exercises, but has so far refrained from taking active countermeasures.
On Tuesday, the military held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on the southeast coast.
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The military will continue to train and gather strength to face the threat from China, said Major General Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s 8th Army Command. “Whatever the situation … this is the best way to defend our country.”
Once a Japanese colony, Taiwan had only loose ties to Imperial China and split with the mainland in 1949. Despite never having ruled the island, the ruling Communist Party of China considers it its own territory and has sought to isolate it diplomatically and economically in addition to ramping up military threats.
Washington has maintained that Pelosi’s visit did not change its “one China policy,” which states that the United States has no position on the status of the two sides, but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully.
© 2022 The Canadian Press