Taylor Fravel, a professor and director of the security studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has told the Wall Street Journal that “China now clearly has the confidence and the capability to conduct exercises close to Taiwan itself, from all directions.”
“The exercises demonstrate that China may now be able to carry out some kinds of operations that it may have been unable to do in the past, such as carrying out an actual blockade of Taiwan’s ports, perhaps closing the Taiwan Strait,” Fravel added, suggesting that Beijing would be likely to try and carry out similar exercises again.
It is 8.30pm in Taiwan. Here is a summary of the day’s events so far.
- China again conducted military drills and exercises around Taiwan on Sunday. The four day show of military strength had been a response to US politician Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the disputed territory earlier in the week.
- Taiwan’s defence ministry earlier said it has sent aircraft and ships to “appropriately” react to Chinese military drills around the island.
- China’s navigational warnings and NOTAMs for military exercises around Taiwan have expired, excluding in one area, and China didn’t extend those exercises as some had previously thought they might.
- Taiwan’s transport ministry said flights through its airspace had gradually resumed on Sunday about noon as most notifications for Chinese military drills near the island were “no longer in effect”.
- Taiwan’s official Central News Agency has reported that Taiwan’s army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday, in response to the Chinese exercises.
- The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state television reported on Sunday, citing a commentator.
- Taiwan’s mainland affairs council (MAC) – which sets policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – has called on Beijing authorities to “exercise restraint and immediately stop all of its belligerent behaviours”. The council accused the PRC of continuing with its military exercises around Taiwan “as part of a simulation for an attack and a blockade in order to intimidate Taiwan and neighbouring countries”.
- Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said China has “arrogantly” used military actions to disrupt regional peace and stability. Speaking to reporters in Taipei on Sunday, Su also called on Beijing to not flex its military muscles, and condemned “foreign enemies” he said were attempting to sap the morale of the Taiwanese people through cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
- A White House spokesperson has said China is trying to “change the status quo” through its military drills around Taiwan.
- Taiwan’s top diplomat in the US has said the self-governing island has been “bullied, marginalised and isolated from the world” for too long and maintained its people would not surrender their freedom.
- Beijing has announced it will hold further military exercises near the southern part of the Yellow Sea and Bohai, near South Korea. The exercises are expected to start on Monday 8 August and last until 8 September.
- US secretary of state Antony Blinken has reassured the Philippines that the US would come to its defence if attacked in the South China Sea.
George Yin and S Philip Hsu have written an opinion piece for the Observer today, in which they argue that by taunting the US “paper tiger”, China risks provoking a backlash over Taiwan:
Nancy Pelosi’s visit was merely a trigger. The crisis reflects deeper issues in Sino-US relations. If they are not addressed, we expect more instability in the Taiwan Strait and the evolution of great power competition into great power conflict.
In the past few years, policymakers, opinion leaders and members of the public in China have increasingly compared America to a “paper tiger”. On the one hand, the US is believed to be pernicious. Jealously guarding its own hegemony, it does not and cannot accept China’s rise, they say; since the Trump administration, Washington has started to systematically hollow out the “one China principle” with the intention of using Taiwan as a pawn to contain China. On the other hand, Washington is believed to lack resolve and capabilities.
This “paper tiger” line significantly complicates efforts to maintain stability across the Taiwan Strait. If Pelosi had decided to cancel her trip to Taiwan after Beijing’s protest, China would probably have launched a propaganda campaign ridiculing Washington’s claim that its commitment to Taiwan was “rock solid”. However, whenever the US tries to signal its resolve and capabilities, Beijing is likely to interpret this as evidence of hostility.
Overnight Reuters has reported that US secretary of state Antony Blinken has reassured the Philippines that the US would come to its defence if attacked in the South China Sea.
In a visit to Manila which has been dominated by tensions over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and the subsequent Chinese military drills around the disputed territory Blinken said the defence pact with the Philippines was “ironclad.”
“An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels and aircraft will invoke US mutual defence commitments. The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner, and ally to the United States,” Blinken told a news conference.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency has reported that Taiwan’s army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday, in response to the Chinese exercises.
Associated Press reports the drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armoured vehicles as well as attack helicopters, according to the report, which cited an anonymous source.
Both Taiwan and China have issued video clip compilations of what they say are their forces in action during the drills on social media this morning.
Global Times, Chinese-state media, posted nearly two minutes of video which it claimed shows “100+ warplanes being deployed”, a new in-flight refuelling capability, and navy ships conducting a joint blockade exercise.
Taiwan’s ministry of defence issued a video with an eye towards father’s day in the territory tomorrow, lamenting that “service members are busy with their job instead of being with their families”. The video ended with a message “Thank you to every soldier on the front line”.
The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state television reported on Sunday, citing a commentator.
The median line in the narrow strait between the island of Taiwan and mainland China is an unofficial line of control that military aircraft and battleships from either side normally do not cross.
Reuters reports that the state television commentator said the median line has never been legally recognised, and is an “imaginary” line drawn up by the US military for their combat requirements in the previous century.
Taiwan’s defence ministry has issued another photograph, which it says shows its forces rehearsing the loading of missiles.
Reuters reports Taiwan said its shore-based anti-ship missiles and its Patriot surface-to-air-missiles were on stand-by. The defence ministry said its F-16 jet fighters were flying with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. It was also using Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets.
David Smith in Washington offers some analysis for the Guardian this morning, writing:
It was perhaps telling that US President Joe Biden and Democrats remained mostly silent, whereas Nancy Pelosi’s loudest cheerleaders were rightwing Republicans and China hawks including Newt Gingrich.
Some commentators believe that a superpower conflict between America and China over Taiwan or another issue is one day inevitable. White Pelosi may have shaved a few years off that forecast, it could be argued that Biden himself has supplied some of the kindling.
For months the president has sown doubts about America’s commitment to the “One China” policy, under which the US recognises formal ties with China rather than Taiwan. In May, when asked if the US would be get involved military to defend Taiwan, he replied forcefully: “Yes. That’s the commitment we made.”
Although America is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has never directly promised to intervene militarily in a conflict with China. This delicate equilibrium has helped deter Taiwan from declaring full independence and China from invading. But some worry that Biden is supplanting this longstanding position of “strategic ambiguity” with “strategic confusion”.
You can read more of David Smith’s analysis from Washington here: Pelosi’s ‘reckless’ Taiwan visit deepens US-China rupture – why did she go?
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia programme at the US-based German Marshall Fund think tank, has told AFP that Taiwan might have to get used to these sorts of exercises. It quotes her saying:
I think prolonged tensions are unlikely. But certainly a major crisis would affect shipping, insurance rates, trade routes, and supply chains.
It will become the norm to have exercises that are close to the main Taiwan island itself. This time it has set a new precedent that the People’s Liberation Army will conduct drills of this sort.
We’re looking at the bar being raised to another level for future exercises of this scale and intensity.”
She said that while China had previously periodically probed Taiwan’s defences, the visit of Nancy Pelosi had “given them the excuse or justification to say that in the future they will just legitimately carry out exercises east of the median line without having to pay due regard to it at all.”
China’s live-fire drills around Taiwan – which saw vessels encircle the democratically ruled island – have offered an unprecedented insight into how Beijing may conduct a military campaign against its neighbour, AFP reports.
Beijing has also imposed economic sanctions and increased efforts to isolate Taiwan on the international stage, in a move that experts say will permanently alter the status quo on the Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese military has conducted drills on Taiwan’s eastern flank, a strategically vital area for supplies to the island’s military forces – as well as any potential American reinforcements – for the first time.
This has sent an ominous signal that Beijing can now blockade the entire island and could prevent any entry or exit of commercial or military ships and aircraft.
Analysts have long speculated that this will be one of China’s preferred strategies in the event of a war to conquer Taiwan.
Ed Moon is a reporter for TaiwanPlus, and he writes for us today on reaction in the Taiwanese island of Kinmen:
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Kinmen, also known as Quemoy. Old military sites, relics from when the islands were the cold war frontline between China and Taiwan, litter the landscape. Giant speakers on the coast that once blared propaganda across the sea now play soft music.
On 23 August 1958, China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), launched a ferocious artillery bombardment of Kinmen that continued, to some extent, for more than 20 years. Many people in Kinmen can vividly remember living under constant shelling – a fact that sets people in Kinmen apart from most Taiwanese.
“Everyone who lived here then has friends and family who were killed. We had to dig our own air raid shelters. If you didn’t, there was nowhere to hide when the shells fell,” Wu Tseng-dong says.
This legacy and divergent histories – unlike Taiwan proper, Kinmen has for hundreds of years been entirely under Chinese rule in one form or another – mean few in Kinmen would even refer to themselves as “Taiwanese”. They are happy to be part of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, and see no need to declare a separate, independent country.
Read more of Ed Moon’s report here: ‘All we can hope for is peace’: the view from Kinmen, once the cold war frontline between China and Taiwan