Taiwan condemns China over war drills

Taiwan blasted its “evil neighbor next door” on Friday after China encircled the island with a series of huge military drills that were condemned by the United States (US) and other Western allies.

During Thursday’s military exercises, which continued Friday, China fired ballistic missiles and deployed both fighter jets and warships around Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army declared multiple no-go danger zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points coming within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the island’s shores.

Beijing has said the exercises will continue until midday Sunday, and Taipei reported that Chinese fighter jets and ships crossed the “median line” that runs down the Taiwan Strait on Friday morning.

“As of 11 a.m., multiple batches of Chinese warplanes and warships conducted exercises around the Taiwan Strait and crossed the median line of the strait,” Taipei’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The median line is an unofficial but once largely adhered-to border that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan and China.

Chinese incursions have become more common since Beijing declared in 2020 that the unofficial border no longer existed.

Beijing has called its war games a “necessary” response to a visit to the self-ruled, democratic island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Washington countered that China’s leaders had “chosen to overreact.”

Pelosi defended her visit Friday, saying Washington will “not allow” China to isolate Taiwan.

“We have said from the start that our representation here is not about changing the status quo here in Asia, changing the status quo in Taiwan,” she told reporters in Tokyo on the final leg of an Asia tour.

Palace mum

Malacañang continued to remain silent on the tension between the two giant nations — the US and China — that could escalate into military aggression.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles, in a press briefing on Friday, reiterated that the Philippine government is being “cautious” in providing statements involving the country’s international relations.

She made the remark when asked if the tension between Washington and Beijing, which was caused by Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, was discussed during the Cabinet meeting held hours earlier.

“When it comes to international relations, we are always being cautious. However, suffice it to say, we are carefully monitoring the situation. We do not have a reaction or statement regarding it,” Angeles said.

Moreover, Angeles was asked if President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has given orders concerning Filipinos living in Taiwan amid heightened military threats here.

“As of now, we are still monitoring the situation. We could only react after a thorough study of the situation, which is subject to the information that we get from the monitoring,” she said.

Only at that point that the President will issue a statement regarding the issue, she said.

National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos on Thursday evening said the developments in Taiwan also have an impact on the national security of the Philippines.

Carlos said the country will engage critically and constructively with the US and China.

“We will just continue engaging with both parties/actors and the President has declared repeatedly that we will engage critically and constructively with both China and the US. You really have to make a fine calibration of our relationship with these two political countries,” Carlos said.

She noted that the Philippines has a continuing conflict with China over the contested waters in the South China Sea. The Us, on the other hand, is the country’s defense ally.

“So there are a lot of moving parts and our time right now cannot allow a very detailed discussion on this issue,” Carlos added.

“It is just a concern and we are not in a crisis mode because what you’re thinking about is unlikely, the scenario of a confrontation. I think the US doesn’t want to go to war or China, although they have a lot of mobilized aircraft carriers,” Carlos said.

Missiles over Taiwan

China’s drills involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said the Chinese army “flew more than 100 warplanes including fighters and bombers” during the exercises, as well as “over 10 destroyers and frigates.”

State broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese missiles had flown directly over Taiwan.

Japan also claimed that of the nine missiles it had detected, four were “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island.”

Taipei’s military said it would not confirm missile flight paths, in a bid to protect its intelligence capabilities and not allow China “to intimidate us.”

‘Temperature’s pretty high’

China’s ruling Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day take it, by force if necessary.

But the scale and intensity of the drills have triggered outrage in the US and other democracies.

“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, told reporters.

“The temperature’s pretty high,” but tensions “can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these very aggressive military drills,” he added.

Japan lodged a formal diplomatic complaint against Beijing, with five of the missiles believed to have landed in its exclusive economic zone.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called China’s exercises a “serious problem that impacts our national security and the safety of our citizens” and called for an “immediate cancellation of the military drills.”

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the “flagrant provocation” by the US had set an “egregious precedent.”

AFP with Michelle Guillang
and Gab Humilde Villegas

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