Taiwan has accused the Chinese army of simulating an attack on its main island, as Beijing continued retaliation for Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
Beijing on Saturday continued some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan – exercises seen as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island.
Taipei said it observed “multiple” Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, believing them to be simulating an attack on the self-ruled democracy’s main island.
“Multiple batches of Communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line,” the defence ministry said, referring to an unofficial demarcation line that runs down the Taiwan Strait which Beijing does not recognise.
Beijing said it would hold a live-fire drill in a southern part of the Yellow Sea – located between China and the Korean peninsula – from Saturday until 15 August.
China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, has reported that Chinese missiles have flown directly over Taiwan during the exercises – a major escalation if confirmed.
Taipei has remained defiant, insisting it will not be cowed by its “evil neighbour”.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills have triggered outrage in the US and other democracies, with the White House summoning China’s ambassador to Washington on Friday to rebuke him over Beijing’s actions.
Relations between the two superpowers have nosedived in the wake of the US House speaker’s trip to self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.
Beijing’s retaliatory decision to withdraw from hard-won cooperation on climate change sparked wider fears about the future of the planet. The US national security council spokesman John Kirby said the decision was “fundamentally irresponsible”.
“They’re actually punishing the whole world, because the climate crisis doesn’t recognise geographic boundaries and borders,” Kirby said.
“The world’s largest emitter now is refusing to engage on critical steps necessary to combat the climate crisis.”
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the two superpowers must continue to work together for the world’s sake.
“For the secretary general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries,” said Guterres’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
But with tensions over Taiwan having risen to their highest level in nearly 30 years with an elevated risk of military conflict, experts told AFP the latest downturn in relations between the two superpowers could be deep and long-lasting.
“The relationship is in a very bad place right now,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund.
The suspension Friday of bilateral military and maritime dialogue while China continues its military exercises was “particularly worrisome”, she said.
“We don’t know what else they will do,” she said. “We just don’t know if this is just a temporary thing.”
John Culver, a former CIA Asia analyst, said in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Beijing’s main purpose with its military exercises was to change that status quo.
“I think that this is the new normal,” Culver said. “The Chinese want to show … that a line has been crossed by the speaker’s visit.”