China announced new military drills around Taiwan yesterday, eliciting concern from US President Joe Biden, a day after the scheduled end of Beijing’s largest exercises to protest last week’s visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it would conduct joint drills focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations – confirming the fears of some security analysts and diplomats that Beijing would keep pressure on Taiwan’s defences.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the move, saying China, which claims the self-governed island as its own, was deliberately creating crises. It demanded Beijing stop its military actions and “pull back from the edge”.
“In the face of military intimidation created by China, Taiwan will not be afraid nor back down, and will more firmly defend its sovereignty, national security and free and democratic way of life,” the ministry said in a statement.
Mr Biden, in his first public comments on the issue since Ms Pelosi’s visit, said he was not worried about Taiwan but was concerned about China’s actions in the region.
“I’m concerned they are moving as much as they are,” he said. “But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later condemned China’s drills.
“They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation. And that’s what he – the president – was referring to.”
Ms Pelosi’s visit infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, and ditching some lines of dialogue with Washington, including theatre military talks and on climate change.
Counter narcotics cooperation on illicit fentanyl trafficking was among the channels Beijing suspended, a move Rahul Gupta, the head of US drug control policy, called “unacceptable”.
The duration and precise location of the latest drills is not yet known.
But Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six earlier Chinese exercise areas surrounding the island.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it had detected 39 Chinese air force planes and 13 navy ships in and around the Taiwan Strait yesterday.
Twenty-one Chinese air force planes had entered Taiwan’s air defence zone, including fighter jets that crossed the median line in the northern part of the Taiwan Strait, the ministry said.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned of the potential for miscalculation over tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
“Around us, a storm is gathering,” he said in a televised address.
“US-China relations are worsening, with intractable issues, deep suspicions and limited engagement.”