Taiwan stays defiant against China’s threats

Published on Aug 05, 2022 06:25 PM IST

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen struck a defiant tone on Wednesday as she hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a furious China conducting major military exercises around the island in retaliation for the visit

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) waving beside Taiwan's President Tsai Ing.(HT_PRINT)
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) waving beside Taiwan's President Tsai Ing.(HT_PRINT)
BySutirtho Patranobis and Agencies, Beijing/taipei

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen struck a defiant tone on Wednesday as she hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a furious China conducting major military exercises around the island in retaliation for the visit.

Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday despite a series of increasingly stark warnings and threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory and has said it would consider her visit a major provocation.

China responded swiftly, warning the US ambassador in Beijing of “extremely serious consequences” and announcing military drills around Taiwan.

“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will... continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,” Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.

She also thanked Pelosi for “taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment”.

China furious

China continued on Wednesday to express anger over the visit, with foreign minister Wang Yi calling her tour a “complete farce”.

Wang, also state councillor, said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was a “complete farce” and “those who play with fire will perish by it and those who offend China will be punished”, Chinese official media reported.

“The United States is violating China’s sovereignty under the guise of so-called democracy,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia. “Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and others ride the coat-tails of the US and act against the noble cause of the Chinese nation.”

It was Wang’s second statement on the controversial visit - the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years - which has triggered a furious and coordinated response from China involving top diplomats and the military.

An eyewitness told HT that there was unusually heavy security presence around the US embassy, located near other embassies in an upmarket area in Beijing, on Wednesday.

Late on Tuesday, US envoy Nicholas Burns was summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry by vice-foreign minister Xie Feng soon after Pelosi’s flight landed in Taiwan, a self-governed democracy claimed by China.

“Noting that Pelosi risks universal condemnation to deliberately provoke and play with fire, Xie said that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a report on Wednesday.

“The move is extremely egregious in nature and the consequences are extremely serious. China will not sit idly by,” Xie told Burns.

Missiles over Taiwan?

Chinese missiles are expected to be fired over Taiwan for the first time with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy also readying to enter within 12 nautical miles of the self-ruled island, a state media report said on Wednesday, adding the ongoing military drills were “unprecedented”.

Quoting military experts, the Global Times said, the PLA were “completely blockading” Taiwan.

“The exercises are unprecedented as the PLA conventional missiles are expected to fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time,” the report said.

The military drills, which started on Tuesday evening, include “joint blockades, sea assault and land and air combat trainings, involving the use of advanced weapons including J-20 stealth fighter jets and DF-17 hypersonic missiles,” the report said. The drills are set to continue through the week.

Meanwhile, Taiwan scrambled jets on Wednesday to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone, the island’s defence ministry said, adding that 22 of them crossed the median line separating the island from China.

Economic measures

Separately, Beijing on Wednesday also announced a number of economic and trade measures against Taiwan including the suspension of importing citrus fruits, chilled white striped hairtail a fish that’s widely popular in China - and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan starting August 3, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan affairs office of the state council.

Ma added that China will also suspend exporting natural sand to Taiwan from August 3.

Ma also announced targeted sanctions against Taiwanese companies, prohibiting mainland organisations, enterprises or individuals from any transaction or cooperation with Speedtech Energy, Hyweb Technology, Skyla, SkyEyes GPS Technology and other enterprises.

Shipping delays

China’s announcement of military drills around Taiwan is creating ripple effects across global supply chains, prompting detours and delaying energy shipments.

Gas suppliers are rerouting or reducing speed on some liquefied natural gas vessels currently en route to North Asia, according to people familiar with the matter. Shipments to Taiwan and Japan this weekend will be affected, said the people, who requested anonymity as the information isn’t public.

Local branches of China’s maritime safety administration have issued multiple warnings for ships to avoid certain territories, citing the military exercises.

A notice from the regulator in Fujian, the province along the Taiwan Strait, said ships were banned from sailing into the areas where exercises will be conducted from Thursday to Sunday.

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