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China’s military extends drills near Taiwan after Pelosi trip

A Chinese air force pilot conducts combat exercises around Taiwan on Aug. 7. (Wang Xinchao/Xinhua News Agency/AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s military said Monday it would continue military exercises around Taiwan, extending an unprecedented show of force in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island last week that has raised the potential for conflict involving Beijing, Taipei and Washington.

After four days of military drills encircling Taiwan, the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said in a post on the microblog Weibo that it was “continuing” exercises, with a focus on anti-submarine combat and sea assaults.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that the exercises were aimed at “sending a warning” to those seeking Taiwan’s independence.

The recent military maneuvers have raised tensions in the Taiwan Strait to their highest level in decades, threatening key shipping routes and trade in a region crucial to global supply chains.

China launches military exercises around Taiwan after Pelosi’s visit

Since Thursday, the PLA has fired missiles around Taiwan and sent more than 200 military aircraft and more than 50 warships to menace the island — including 39 aircraft and 13 naval vessels on Monday — according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. Dozens of Chinese military planes have crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial sea border between Taiwan and China.

The trip to Taiwan by Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a congressional delegation drew outrage from officials in Beijing, who claim the self-governed democracy is an inseparable part of China and chafe at high-level visits by foreign dignitaries. Beijing has sought to isolate Taiwan by picking off its allies and pushing it out of international organizations.

In response to the visit, China launched military drills, imposed sanctions on Pelosi and her family, and canceled or suspended talks with Washington on issues including climate change, drug trafficking and military matters.

On Monday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian defended the cancellation of military talks in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit, calling Beijing’s countermeasures a “necessary warning” to Washington “not to go down the wrong path.”

“We urge the U.S. side to respect China’s core interests and concern and abandon this illusion of using the Taiwan question to contain China,” Wu said in remarks carried by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

Pelosi’s Taiwan visit ushers in new phase of China’s pressure campaign

According to plans released by state media, the drills in six zones targeting Taiwan from all sides would have put the Chinese military maneuvers closer than ever to the shores of Taiwan’s main island, encroaching within the 12-nautical-mile zone that Taiwan claims as its territorial waters. But Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Monday that no Chinese warships or aircraft had entered its territory.

The exercises, which began Thursday after Pelosi left Taipei — a sign Beijing did not want to court direct military confrontation with the United States — were originally scheduled to wrap up Sunday.

Taiwan’s Transportation Ministry said Monday that some flights and shipping routes were returning to normal after disruption in recent days. The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command did not say when its exercises would end. Taiwan’s military has upgraded its alert level and deployed ships and a shore-based missile system to monitor the situation.

Chinese military analysts have portrayed the crisis as a way for China to establish a new normal in the Taiwan Strait. CCTV reported Sunday that PLA warships would now “regularly conduct training” on the other side of the “so-called median line.” The report asserted: “There are no so-called ‘Taiwanese territorial waters.’ Taiwan is part of China, and the Chinese navy sails in its own territorial waters.”

Still, such intimidation may undermine Beijing’s goals. China’s leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have repeatedly pledged their commitment to peaceful unification with the Chinese mainland but have said the PLA will resort to force if necessary.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement Sunday that the aggressive military posturing by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has succeeded only in pushing citizens away.

“Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion firmly opposes the CCP’s threat of force,” it said, citing poll results it released in June in which more than 90 percent of respondents said they opposed China’s diplomatic suppression of Taiwan. “This is entirely the result of the CCP’s wrong policy and misjudgment of the situation,” it said.

Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.

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