Chinese military exercises continue off Taiwan

The Japanese leader on Friday called on China to halt its military drills 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 drills, which he said have “a serious impact on peace and stability in the region and the world”, Kyodo News reported. He spoke to reporters after meeting President Nancy Pelosi, whose high-profile visit to Taiwan this week infuriated China and led to military drills.

Ms Pelosi said China “may try to prevent Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but it will not isolate Taiwan.”

At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, the first day of the exercises, which are due to end on Sunday. The People’s Liberation Army of China said they had “all precisely achieved their goals”. Japan said five of them fell in its exclusive economic zone, outside its territorial waters.

The drills appeared to continue Friday morning. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Chinese ships and planes crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from the Chinese mainland.

The Ministry of Defense said it had dispatched its own planes 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 views visits by US 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.

As well as demonstrating Beijing’s displeasure with his visit, the drills – which are to be held in six areas surrounding Taiwan – appear to have been designed as a trial to cordon off the island in the face of a possible invasion. Chinese leaders, including the current Xi Jinping, have long said that Taiwan must finally be brought under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.

The exercises placed the United States in a delicate position. While the Pentagon wants to protect the force in the region, it is also sensitive to the risk that a military miscalculation near the island could trigger an unintended escalation.

John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said Thursday that the Pentagon had ordered the USS Ronald Reagan to “stay stationed” in the area, but some distance from the entrance to the Taiwan Strait. This represents a more cautious decision than that 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 sea transits across the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks,” Kirby added, indicating the White House wants the Chinese exercises to end first.

On Friday morning, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet posted pics on twitter of fighter jets on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during what he described as “air operations” in the Philippine Sea, southeast of Taiwan.

It was unclear on Friday how China’s other drills would go. China’s Eastern Theater Command, which encompasses Taiwan, said it was mobilizing more than 100 fighter jets, bombers and other aircraft, as well as more than 10 destroyers and frigates, according to Reuters.

Ben Doley contributed report.


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