The House speaker’s trip to Taiwan on Tuesday prompted the People’s Liberation Army to kick off what US media have characterized as the largest-ever military drills in the sea and airspace surrounding the island.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has accused China of crossing the sea frontier between the island and the mainland, and carrying out a “possible simulated attack” against high-value assets.
“Multiple PLA craft were detected around Taiwan Strait, some have crossed the median line. Possible simulated attack against HVA. #ROCArmedForces have utilized alert broadcast, aircraft on [Combat Air Patrol], patrolling naval vessels, and land-based missile systems in response to this situation,” the MoND reported in a tweet Saturday.
Later in the day, the ministry posted a photo of a Taiwanese frigate which it said was monitoring People’s Liberation Army Navy activity off the eastern coast of Taiwan amid China’s drills.
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) August 6, 2022
On Friday, the ministry reported on the flight of some 49 People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft through Taiwan’s so-called aircraft defense identification zone (ADIZ), including nearly two dozen J-10, J-11, and J-16 fighter jets, 24 Su-30 fighters, a Y-8 early warning aircraft, and a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
The same day, the MoND published a propaganda video showing off the island’s US-made military equipment, accusing China of “violating our sovereignty,” and vowing to “guard our freedom and democracy.”
The recent coercion from PRC’s drills around us aimed to change the status quo of Taiwan Strait, violated our sovereignty, and caused tension in the Indo-Pacific region. #ROCArmedForces seek no escalation, but we succumb to no challenges and respond with reason. pic.twitter.com/o7ehFqAGNG
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) August 5, 2022
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of responding “disproportionately” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Tuesday visit to Taiwan after the PLA kicked off a massive series of strategic military drills around Taiwan, including live fire in the waters and airspace near the island.
China also slapped personal sanctions on Pelosi and her family following the provocative visit.
The People’s Republic considers Taiwan an inseparable part of China destined for eventual, hopefully peaceful, reunification with the mainland, and has urged Washington to stick to its commitments under the One China policy and the communiques on which China-US relations are built, as well as to avoid diplomatic contacts with Taiwanese officials.
Pelosi, who is third in line for the presidency if something were to happen to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, was the first House speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich did so in 1997.
Fallout over the Tuesday trip – which was part of Pelosi’s broader Asia tour, continued in the days following the visit, with Beijing announcing Friday that it would sever relations with Washington in eight areas, including climate change, anti-crime cooperation, and military-to-military dialogue.
Tensions in US-China relations over Taiwan have been brewing throughout the year-and-a-half that Joe Biden has been president, with his repeated pledges to “defend” the island, the signing of new weapons contracts, and diplomatic moves by Washington to include Taiwan in international venues such as Biden’s “Democracy Summit” last year sparking outrage in Beijing.
Questions Remain on Trip’s Purpose
The escalation of the crisis seemed to have come out of nowhere, and began in July after the Financial Times reported that Pelosi might visit Taiwan during her Asia visit. The White House remained aloof amid the situation, with Biden telling media that the military didn’t think the trip would be a good idea. China urged the speaker not to go, and English-language Chinese media warned of the dangers of escalating tensions if the trip took place. Pelosi proceeded with the visit, for reasons which remain unclear.
The speaker’s husband, Paul Pelosi, is known to be a major investor in microchip and defense stocks, and the couple has repeatedly been accused of insider trading using Mrs. Pelosi’s knowledge of financially sensitive details related to draft legislation and secret information related to international affairs. However, observers aren’t sure whether the octogenarian couple would risk igniting an international conflagration involving the US and China for the sake of personal enrichment.
During her Taiwan trip, Pelosi’s public remarks consisted of traditional talking points often heard in Washington, including a word salad about freedom and democracy.
“In our earliest days of our founding of our country, Benjamin Franklin, our presidency, said freedom and democracy. Freedom and democracy in one thing. Security here. If we don’t have – we can’t have either if we don’t have both. So, security, economics, security, economy, and again they’re all – and governance, they’re all related. And we want Taiwan to always have freedom with security, and we’re not backing away from that,” Pelosi said in a speech.
Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan with wise words from “Benjamin Franklin, our presidency” on “freedom and democracy on one thing, security here.” pic.twitter.com/mElfFUoF5C
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) August 3, 2022