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Taiwan Warns on China Drills           08/09 06:25

   

   PINGTUNG, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan warned Tuesday that Chinese military drills 
aren't just a rehearsal for an invasion of the self-governing island but also 
reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, as Taipei 
conducted its own exercises to underscore it's ready to defend itself.

   Angered by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan, China 
has sent military ships and planes across the midline that separates the two 
sides in the Taiwan Strait and launched missiles into waters surrounding the 
island. The drills, which began Thursday, have disrupted flights and shipping 
in one of the busiest zones for global trade.

   Ignoring calls to calm tensions, Beijing instead extended the exercises 
without announcing when they will end.

   Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that beyond aiming to annex the 
island democracy, which split with the mainland amid civil war in 1949, China 
wants to establish its dominance in the western Pacific. That would include 
controlling of the East and South China Seas via the Taiwan Strait and imposing 
a blockade to prevent the U.S. and its allies from aiding Taiwan in the event 
of an attack, he told a news conference in Taipei.

   The exercises show China's "geostrategic ambition beyond Taiwan," which 
Beijing claims as its own territory, Wu said.

   "China has no right to interfere in or alter" Taiwan's democracy or its 
interactions with other nations, he added.

   Wu's assessment of China's maneuvers was grimmer than that of other 
observers but echoed widespread concerns that Beijing is seeking to expand its 
influence in the Pacific, where the U.S. has military bases and extensive 
treaty partnerships.

   China has said its drills were prompted by Pelosi's visit, but Wu said 
Beijing was using her trip as a pretext for intimidating moves long in the 
works. China also banned some Taiwanese food imports after the visit and cut 
off dialogue with the U.S. on a range of issues from military contacts to 
combating transnational crime and climate change.

   The U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, 
but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all 
threats against it as matters of grave concern. That leaves open the question 
of whether Washington would dispatch forces if China attacked Taiwan. U.S. 
President Joe Biden has said repeatedly the U.S. is bound to do so -- but staff 
members have quickly walked back those comments.

   Through its maneuvers, China has pushed closer to Taiwan's borders and may 
be seeking to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control 
access to the island's ports and airspace. But that would likely elicit a 
strong response from the military on the island, whose people strongly favor 
the status quo of de-facto independence.

   The U.S., Taipei's main backer, has also shown itself to be willing to face 
down Beijing's threats.

   Beyond the geopolitical risks, an extended crisis in the Taiwan Strait, a 
significant thoroughfare for global trade, could have major implications for 
international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing 
disruptions and uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war 
in Ukraine. In particular, Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for 
the global economy, including China's high-tech sectors.

   In response to the drills, Taiwan has put its forces on alert, but has so 
far refrained from taking active counter measures.

   On Tuesday, its military held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County 
on its southeastern coast.

   The army will continue to train and accumulate strength to deal with the 
threat from China, said Maj, Gen. Lou Woei-jye, spokesperson for Taiwan's 8th 
Army Command. "No matter what the situation is ... this is the best way to 
defend our country."

   Taiwan, once a Japanese colony, had only loose connections to imperial China 
and then split with the mainland in 1949. Despite never having governed the 
island, China's ruling Communist Party regards it as its own territory and has 
sought to isolate it diplomatically and economically in addition to ratcheting 
up military threats.

   Washington has insisted Pelosi's visit did not change its "one China 
policy," which holds that the United States has no position on the status of 
the two sides but wants their dispute settled peacefully.

 
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