MISE & Agrave; DAY
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that the island “would not back down” in the face of the threat from China, which is preparing to launch military maneuvers dangerously close to the Taiwanese coast in retaliation to the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
During a meeting with Ms. Tsai in Taipei, Ms. Pelosi said she had come to the region “in peace” while assuring that the United States would not abandon its commitments to the democratic island, which lives under the constant threat of an invasion by Beijing.
“Today, our delegation … came to Taiwan to say unequivocally that we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and that we are proud of our enduring friendship,” said Ms. Pelosi, the top official. American to visit the island for 25 years.
The American official arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening on board an American military plane, immediately triggering strong reactions in Beijing.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denounced “a serious violation” of American commitments vis-à-vis China, which “seriously undermines regional peace and stability”.
The Chinese government summoned the American ambassador Nicholas Burns on Tuesday evening. Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng expressed his country's “strong protests” to her, adding that “(Ms. Pelosi's) initiative to visit Taiwan is extremely shocking and the consequences will be very serious,” according to the New China agency.
China's Defense Ministry has meanwhile promised “targeted military actions”, with a series of military maneuvers around the island to begin on Wednesday, including “long-range live ammunition firing” in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.
According to the coordinates published by the Chinese army, part of the military operations will take place 20 kilometers from the coast of Taiwan.
“Some of China's maneuver areas encroach on…Taiwan's territorial waters,” Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said. “This is an irrational act aimed at challenging the international order,” he said.
Japan said it was “concerned” about the Chinese exercises, claiming that some would encroach on its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). South Korea, the next stop on Ms. Pelosi's Asian tour on Wednesday night, appealed for calm.
Beijing's Commerce Ministry also announced economic sanctions, announcing a suspension of the export to Taiwan of natural sand – a key component in the manufacture of semiconductors, one of the island's top exports.
“Taiwan will not back down”
“Faced with deliberately increased military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” responded Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen.
“We will (…) continue to defend democracy,” she said during her meeting with Ms. Pelosi, whom she thanked for having “taken concrete steps to show (her) unwavering support for Taiwan. at this critical time.”
Taiwanese authorities reported overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday that 21 Chinese military aircraft entered the island's air defense identification zone – an area much larger wider than its airspace.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense denounced “an attempt to threaten our ports and important urban areas, and unilaterally undermine regional peace and stability”.
“The army will definitely remain at its post and protect national security. We ask the public to be reassured and to support the army,” he added.
Several American ships are also cruising in the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, according to reports. US military sources.
Most observers rate the likelihood of armed conflict as low. But US officials have said they are preparing for a show of force from the Chinese military.
'Playing with fire'
China believes that Taiwan, with its 23 million inhabitants, is one of its provinces, which it has not yet managed to attach to the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1949).
Opposed to any initiative giving the Taiwanese authorities international legitimacy, Beijing is against any official contact between Taiwan and other countries.
US officials visit the island regularly. But China deems a visit by Ms. Pelosi, 82, the third person in the US state, to be a major provocation.
Last week, in a telephone interview with her US counterpart Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping had already called on the United States not to “play with fire”.
Since 1979, Washington has recognized only one Chinese government, that of Beijing, while continuing to provide support to the Taiwanese authorities, notably through significant arms sales.
The United States also practices “strategic ambiguity”, refraining from saying whether or not it would defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an invasion.
Russia, a major ally of China, on Tuesday accused the Americans of “destabilizing the world” and described Nancy Pelosi’s visit as “pure provocation”.
Another Beijing ally, North Korea, has expressed its “full support.