China’s Military Drills Continue Off Taiwan
Japan’s leader on Friday called for China to stop its military exercises around Taiwan, a day after five of the Chinese missiles launched during the drills landed in waters claimed by Japan for its exclusive economic use.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for “an immediate halt” to the exercises, which he said were having “a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the world,” Kyodo News reported. He spoke to reporters after meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose high-profile visit to Taiwan this week infuriated China and led to the military drills.
Ms. Pelosi said that China “may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places but they will not isolate Taiwan.”
At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, the first day of the exercises, which are scheduled to end on Sunday. The People’s Liberation Army of China said they had “all precisely hit their targets.” Japan said five of them had fallen into its exclusive economic zone, outside its territorial waters.
The exercises appeared to be continuing on Friday morning. Taiwan’s defense ministry said Chinese ships and aircraft had crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from the Chinese mainland.
The defense ministry said it had dispatched its own aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.
China claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy off its southern coast, as its own territory, and regards visits by American politicians as an affront. Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwan’s president, lawmakers and human rights activists on Wednesday, hailing the island’s commitment to democracy.
Besides demonstrating Beijing’s displeasure with her visit, the drills — scheduled to be held in six zones encircling Taiwan — appear to have been designed as a trial run for sealing off the island as part of a potential invasion. China’s leaders, including the current one, Xi Jinping, have long said that Taiwan must eventually be brought under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.
Criticism of China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait by the United States and its allies apparently prompted Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, to walk out of a gala dinner in Cambodia’s capital on Thursday night, moments before diplomats attending a regional conference were to be seated. Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, had just issued a formal protest to China when Mr. Wang left.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Wang had accused the United States of instigating the situation around Taiwan. “It is the United States that stirred up the trouble; it is the United States that created the crisis, and it is also the United States that kept escalating tensions,” Mr. Wang told foreign ministers attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum in Phnom Penh.
The Chinese drills have put the United States in a delicate position. While the Pentagon wants to project strength in the region, it is also sensitive to the risk that a military miscalculation near the island could set off an unintended escalation.
The Biden administration is intent on avoiding an incident like the 2001 collision between an American P-3 intelligence plane and a Chinese fighter jet over waters off China’s southern coast. The U.S. plane made a forced landing on Hainan island, a southern province of China, and more than 20 crew members were taken captive for 11 days. The plane was stripped by the Chinese and eventually returned to the United States in crates.
John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said on Thursday that the Pentagon had ordered the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan to “remain on station” in the region, but some distance from the entrance to the Taiwan Strait. That represents a more cautious move than one made during a crisis over Taiwan in 1996, when President Bill Clinton moved aircraft carriers closer to the strait.
The United States will resume “standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks,” Mr. Kirby added, an indication that the White House wants the Chinese exercises to end first.
In Washington, a former C.I.A. analyst, John Culver, said at a meeting of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday that a new low had been reached in the already fraught relationship between the United States and China.
“We’re in a new era,” said Mr. Culver, who was the national intelligence officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council from 2015 to 2018. “It’s not the mid-90s anymore. The context is entirely different.”
On Friday morning, the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet posted photos on Twitter of fighter jets on the deck of U.S.S. Ronald Reagan during what it said were “flight operations” in the Philippine Sea, southeast of Taiwan.
It was unclear Friday how the rest of China’s exercises would play out. China’s Eastern Theater Command, which encompasses Taiwan, has said that it was mobilizing more than 100 fighter planes, bombers and other aircraft, as well as more than 10 destroyers and frigates, according to Reuters.
Ben Dooley contributed reporting.