Last day of the vast Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan

Last day of the vast Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan

China wrapped up its largest-ever military maneuvers around Taiwan on Sunday, an angry reaction to the visit to this island by the US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which plunged relations between Beijing and Washington to the lowest in years.

Number three in the hierarchy of power in the United States, Ms Pelosi triggered the fury of China with her visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, the most important by an American elected official to Taiwan in 25 years. Beijing, which considers this territory as one of its provinces, reacted by suspending a series of Sino-American discussions and cooperation, including on climate change and defense.

The Chinese military has also begun the most impressive military exercises in its history around Taiwan, sending fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles in what analysts consider to be a simulated blockade and invasion of the island.

On Sunday, it carried out “joint practical exercises at sea and in the airspace surrounding the island of Taiwan, as planned,” said its Eastern command, which oversees China’s eastern maritime space – and therefore Taiwan.

These were aimed at “testing joint firepower on the ground and long-range air strike capabilities,” he added.

– New exercises –

These extensive maneuvers were supposed to be completed by mid-day, but neither Beijing nor Taipei confirmed that they were completed. China also plans to conduct new “live-fire” exercises until August 15 in the Yellow Sea, which separates China from the Korean Peninsula.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense confirmed that China had deployed “aircraft, ships and drones” around the strait, “to simulate attacks on the main island of Taiwan and against boats in our waters”.

The ministry counted 66 aircraft and 14 ships operating in the strait that separates mainland China from Taiwan, 22 of which crossed the midline, which bisects this maritime space.

Drawn unilaterally by the United States during the Cold War, this line has never been recognized by Beijing.

China also sent a drone over the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, located about ten kilometers from the Chinese city of Xiamen, forcing the Taiwanese army to fire flares, according to local authorities.

Taiwan’s Transport ministry announced that by noon, six of the seven “temporary danger zones” that China had asked airlines to avoid had returned to normal, a hint that the exercises were coming to an end.

“The flights and navigations concerned can resume gradually,” he said.

The seventh zone, in the waters east of Taiwan, will remain to be bypassed until Monday at 10:00 a.m. (0200 GMT), according to the same source.

On the Chinese side, the Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for confirmation of the end of the maneuvers.

To prove how close it had come to the Taiwanese coast, the Chinese military released on Saturday a photo taken according to it from one of its warships, where we see a Taiwanese navy building only a few hundred meters away.

This shot could be the closest to the Taiwanese coastline ever taken by mainland Chinese forces.

The Chinese military has also made public the video of one of its fighter pilots showing, from his cockpit in mid-flight, the coastline and mountains of Taiwan.

According to China’s state-run CCTV television, missiles flew over Taiwan this week during maneuvers around the island – which would be a first.

On the Taiwanese side, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang, said on Sunday that China was “using military action in a barbaric way” in order to disrupt peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“We call on the Chinese government not to wield its military force, not to show its muscles everywhere to endanger the peace of the region,” he told reporters.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered that the maneuvers threatened “the region and even the world”.

In addition, an anonymous editorial published by CCTV on Sunday suggested that other “regular” exercises would be held on the eastern side of the center line.

– Warning –

Several experts explained to AFP that these maneuvers served as a warning: the Chinese army now seems able to set up a total blockade of the island and prevent American forces from coming to its aid.

“In some areas, its capabilities may even exceed those of the United States,” notes Grant Newsham, a former US Navy officer and researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

If “the Americans and the Japanese do not intervene, things will be very difficult for Taiwan,” he believes.

The scale of the maneuvers and Beijing’s decision to withdraw from crucial bilateral dialogues on climate and defense triggered a shower of condemnation by the United States and its allies.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Saturday in Manila the “total disproportion” of the Chinese reaction.

China should not take discussions on issues such as climate change “hostage” because it “does not punish the United States, but the whole world,” he added.

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