Asia

‘Prepare for war’: China nears breaking point


China is seething following another bipartisan US delegation visit to Taiwan, with Beijing renewing its “prepare for war” warning and launching fresh military drills around the island.

Beijing’s show of military might in waters and airspace around Taiwan came just one day after a congressional delegation led by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey arrived in Taipei on Sunday.

The two-day visit, aimed at reaffirming the US government’s support for Taiwan, came days after a similar trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The five-member group met with President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, according to Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei.

“The delegation had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan,” it said.

Dr Tsai told the delegation she wants “to maintain a stable status quo across the Taiwan Strait” and “jointly maintain the prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region”, her office said in a statement.

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated “the threat that authoritarian states pose to the world order” and also thanked Washington for its support in the face of Chinese military threats.

The new, unannounced trip sparked a furious reaction from China, prompting a renewal of its rhetoric that it would “prepare for war” over Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that Beijing’s leaders claim and have vowed to one day seize.

On Monday, the Chinese Defence Ministry branded the trip an “ambush visit” that “violates China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Beijing said it had carried out a fresh round of “combat readiness patrol and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island” in response.

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“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army continues to train and prepare for war, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely crush any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism and foreign interference attempts,” Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s defence ministry, said.

“We warn the US and the DPP authorities – using Taiwan to contain China is doomed to failure,” he added, referring to Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

On Monday evening, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry reported 30 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft and five PLA vessels had conducted military activities around the island nation.

The ministry also claimed that, out of the 30 aircraft, 15 had crossed the median line, an unofficial maritime line that crosses the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing does not recognise this demarcation line.

In a defiant response, the defence ministry vowed to face the latest drills “calmly and seriously and defend national security”.

“Apart from expressing condemnation [of China’s drills], the Ministry of National Defence will comprehensively grasp the movements in the sea and airspace around the Taiwan Strait,” the ministry said.

China takes aim at Australia over Pelosi visit

China’s most recent military drills around Taiwan follow days of major exercises in response to Ms Pelosi’s visit, with Beijing sending warships, missiles and jets into the waters and skies near the island.

Taipei condemned those drills and missile tests as preparation for an invasion.

China’s Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan but says it will use force if necessary to take the island and bristles at any perceived treatment of it as a sovereign nation state.

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The “over the top” response to Ms Pelosi’s visit was branded “deeply concerning” by Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton last week.

“Nobody wants to see conflict or war. We want to see peace in our region, but the acts of aggression from China at the moment are quite phenomenal,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

The reaction from Chinese President Xi Jinping was “widely disproportionate” considering “nobody” was advocating for a shift from the “one-China” policy, he said.

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to offer a view on the US Speaker’s trip, Mr Dutton said he was “pleased” she took up the offer.

He added he would “contemplate” any offer to visit Taipei but concluded he would be “better off” to not involve himself in “political stunts”.

Earlier, China’s embassy in Canberra lashed the Australian Government for butting in on what it called the “justified actions” taken by Beijing to “safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

But Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Monday brushed aside the attack, calling for all parties to “lower the temperature”.

“What is most critical at the moment is that the temperature is lowered and calm is restored when it comes to cross-Strait tensions,” she told reporters in Canberra.

“Australia continues to urge de-escalation and this is not something that solely Australia is calling for. The whole region is concerned about the current situation.”

– with AFP

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