Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that the island "would not back down" in the face of the threat of China, which is preparing to launch military maneuvers dangerously close to the Taiwanese coast in retaliation for the president's visit. of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
During a meeting with Ms. Tsai in Taipei, Ms. Pelosi said she had come "in peace" to the region while assuring that the United States would not abandon the democratic island, which lives under the constant threat of a 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 most senior American official in visiting the island for 25 years.
Nancy Pelosi arrived Tuesday evening in Taipei aboard an American military plane, triggering the ire of Beijing, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory and vehemently opposes any form of international recognition of the island.
“This is a real joke. The United States is violating China's sovereignty under the guise of so-called + democracy + (…) Those who offend China will be punished,” threatened Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday.
On Tuesday evening, the Chinese government summoned US Ambassador to Beijing Nicholas Burns. Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng expressed his country's "firm protests" to him. Ms. Pelosi's visit to Taipei "is extremely shocking and the consequences will be very serious", he added, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Live ammunition firing
China's Defense Ministry meanwhile pledged "targeted military actions", with a series of military maneuvers around the island to begin on Thursday, including "long-range live ammunition firing" in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.
"Faced with deliberately increased military threats, Taiwan will not back down," responded the Taiwanese president.
“We will (…) continue to defend democracy,” she said during her meeting with Ms. Pelosi, whom she thanked for having “taken concrete measures to show (her) unwavering support for Taiwan in this critical moment”.
According to the coordinates published by the Chinese army, part of the military operations must 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.
The Mainland Affairs Council, the body that sets the Taiwanese government's policy toward Beijing, has accused the Chinese regime of practicing "vicious bullying" that will "seriously impact the peace and prosperity of the all of East Asia”.
Japan meanwhile said it was "concerned" about the Chinese drills, saying some would encroach on its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Taiwan authorities reported overnight Tuesday-Wednesday that 21 Chinese military planes entered the island's air defense identification zone - an area much larger than its airspace.
Beijing's commerce ministry also announced economic sanctions, including a suspension of exports to Taiwan of natural sand - a key component in the manufacture of semiconductors, one of the island's top exports. And the Chinese customs administration has suspended the import of citrus fruits and certain fish from Taiwan.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense denounced "an attempt to threaten our ports and our important urban areas, and to unilaterally undermine regional peace and stability".
“The army will definitely stay in place and protect national security. We ask the public to be reassured and to support the army,” he added.
Several American ships also cruise in the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, according to American military sources.
Most observers rate the likelihood of armed conflict as low. But US officials said they were preparing for shows of force from the Chinese military.
China considers that Taiwan, with its 23 million inhabitants, is one of its provinces, which it has not yet succeeded in attaching 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 judges that a visit by Ms. Pelosi, 82, the third figure in the American state, is a major provocation.
Last week, in a telephone interview with his American 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, in particular via major 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.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)
Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Alexandros Michailidis
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