China announces new military drills around Taiwan

TAIPEI, Aug 8 (Reuters) – China’s military announced new military exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan on Monday in protest of U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last week.

China’s Eastern Theater Command said it would hold joint exercises focused on anti-submarine and maritime attack operations — confirming fears by some defense analysts and diplomats that Beijing would continue to press on Taiwan’s defenses.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week angered China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own and fired ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as abandoning some talks with Washington.

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The duration and exact location of the latest drills are not yet known, but Taiwan has already relaxed flight restrictions near six previous Chinese exercise areas around the island.

Shortly before the latest drills were announced, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who he assured would visit despite Chinese military pressure. read more

“Prime Minister Gonsalves expressed in recent days that Chinese military exercises will not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. These statements touched us deeply,” Tsai said at a reception for Gonsalves in Taipei.

It’s unclear whether Chai called Gonsalves before or after Pelosi’s visit. “We do not disclose internal planning or communications between governments,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said when asked by Reuters.

Beyond the firing of 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the four earlier exercises, Chinese warships, warplanes and drones conducted extensive maneuvers around the island.

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Shortly before those exercises ended Sunday, 10 warships each from China and Taiwan maneuvered in close quarters around the unofficial demarcation line in the Taiwan Strait, a person familiar with the situation said in defense planning.

Military talks were abandoned

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Chinese military ships, aircraft and drones had simulated attacks on the island and its navy. It said it had dispatched planes and ships to act “as appropriate”.

Meanwhile, China’s Defense Ministry maintained its diplomatic pressure on the United States, suspending military-to-military talks in protest at Pelosi’s visit.

“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait was entirely instigated by the US side and created by its own initiative, and the US side should bear full responsibility and bear the severe consequences,” Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in an online post.

“The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires honesty,” Wu said.

As Pelosi left the region, China on Friday suspended formal talks involving theater-level commands, defense policy coordination and military maritime consultations.

Pentagon, State Department and White House officials condemned the move, describing it as a reckless overreaction.

China’s severance of some of its communications links with the U.S. military raises the risk of an accidental escalation over Taiwan at a critical moment, according to security analysts and diplomats. read more

A U.S. official noted that Chinese officials did not return calls from senior Pentagon officials last week amid tensions, but they did not see this as a formal severing of ties with senior figures such as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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Asked directly about the reports, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu said China’s “related countermeasures are a necessary warning against provocations by the United States and Taiwan, and a legitimate defense of national sovereignty and security.”

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Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Sarah Wu in Taipei; Written by Greg Dorot. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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