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China announces new military maneuvers around Taiwan amid heightened tensions with US

Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. (File photo by AFP)

China’s Defense Ministry has announced new military drills in waters and airspace surrounding the self-ruled Chinese Taipei just a day after concluding its largest ever maneuvers to protest US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced on Monday that it would carry out joint exercises and training focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations – as anticipated by defense analysts and diplomats, who were cited in press reports as saying that Beijing would maintain pressure on Taiwan.

The duration and precise location of the latest drills remain unknown, however, amid reports that Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six earlier Chinese exercise regions surrounding the breakaway island.

China is also set to begin on Monday live-fire maneuvers in parts of the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea, according to wire reports.

The new military maneuvers by Beijing further defied US-led calls to halt massive drills encircling Taiwan in wake of last week’s visit by Pelosi, who is the third in line to succeed the president in the American government.

The visit has infuriated China, which has repeatedly warned US officials against political visits and the sale of weapons to Taiwan in violation of Washington’s official One China policy.

Beijing reacted strongly to Pelosi’s deliberately provocative trip with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as ditching some lines of dialogue with Washington.

The development came as China’s Defense Ministry defended its decision to suspend military talks with the US to protest Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, vowing “serious consequences” for Washington.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Monday that the current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is “entirely provoked” and created by the US side on its own initiative.

“The US side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this,” Wu said, in remarks just days after Pelosi paid an official visit to the island territory despite Beijing’s warnings against the move. “The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires sincerity.”

“China’s relevant countermeasures are a necessary warning to the provocations of the United States and Taiwan and a legitimate defense of national sovereignty and security,” the Chinese spokesman said in response to questions on whether the cutting of some official communication lines would persist.

Taiwan, however, has remained defiant in the past days of military maneuvers by Chinese forces and is reportedly set to begin its own live-fire drills on Tuesday.

Taiwan’s Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang was quoted in press reports as saying that China was “barbarously using military action” to disturb peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“We call on the Chinese government not to go around wielding its military power, showing its muscles everywhere and jeopardizing the peace of the region,” he added in a press briefing on Sunday.

Taipei’s foreign ministry also claimed that the Chinese drills threatened “the region and even the world.”

This is while the Chinese military released a video clip taken by an air force pilot filming Taiwan’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit to demonstrate how close it has gotten to the island’s shorelines.

The Eastern Command also shared a photo it said was of a warship on patrol with Taiwan's shoreline visible in the background.

Meanwhile, regional experts insist that China’s latest drills have revealed an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of conducting a grueling blockade of the island as well as obstructing US forces from rushing to its aid.

“In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities,” said former US Navy officer and current researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, Grant Newsham, as quoted in an AFP report.

“If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent -- and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan.”

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