Chinese Military Drills and Missile Tests Set to Encircle Taiwan During Pelosi Visit

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu welcomes U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan August 2, 2022. Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

Chinese Military Drills and Missile Tests Set to Encircle Taiwan During Pelosi Visit

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August 2, 2022

By Sarah Zheng 1(Bloomberg) —

China will conduct large-scale military drills and missile tests around Taiwan in a defiant show of force after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking US politician to land on the island in a quarter century.

Beijing announced six exclusion zones encircling Taiwan to facilitate live-fire military drills from Thursday to Sunday, with some of the areas crossing into the island’s territorial waters. The size and scope of the areas could set the stage for the Chinese military’s most provocative actions near Taiwan in decades.

Separately, the People’s Liberation Army said exercises could start as soon as Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of military activities around Taiwan while Pelosi was visiting. The operations include “long-range live firing in the Taiwan Strait” and “regular-guided fire testing in the eastern waters” off Taiwan from Tuesday evening, the PLA said. 

“This action is targeted at the US’s shocking recent major escalation on the Taiwan issue, and serves as a serious warning to Taiwanese independence forces or those seeking independence,” Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement.

During the military drills, “relevant ships and aircraft should not enter the above sea areas and airspaces during this period,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in a report late Tuesday, which gave coordinates for the exercises. 

The exercises highlight the risk that Taiwan tensions could exacerbate existing supply chain woes. The Taiwan Strait is the primary route for ships passing from China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to points west. Almost half of the global container fleet and 88% of the world’s largest ships by tonnage passed through the waterway this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said 21 Chinese military aircraft entered its air-defense identification zone Tuesday, compared to four the day before. The PLA has stepped up its flights near Taiwan in recent months, and ramps ups the show of force around key events, including visits by US poltiicians.

Pelosi became the first US House speaker to visit the island in 25 years when her military aircraft arrived at Songshan Airport shortly before 11 p.m. local time. China considers Taiwan part of its territory and protests diplomatic visits to the democratic island.

The planned drills would be the most serious show of force by China around Taiwan since at least 1995, when Beijing test-fired missiles into the sea near the island. That move was part of China’s protests against President Bill Clinton’s decision to let Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, Lee Teng-hui, visit the US. 

Back then, China also declared exclusion zones around target areas during the tests, disrupting shipping and air traffic. 

Pelosi plans to hold a joint press briefing with President Tsai Ing-wen at about 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, the Taiwan leader’s office said in a statement. She is expected to depart the island later that day to continue her Asia tour visiting US allies South Korea and Japan. 

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party called on China to exercise restraint and stop acts of military and political intimidation. China should “demonstrate the demeanor of a responsible power,” DPP spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-fen said in a statement late Tuesday.  

“No threatening remarks or provocative actions can reduce even slightly the determination of Taiwan and its international friends to defend democracy and freedom,” she added.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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