Chinese and Taiwanese warships play cat and mouse as exercises wrap up

A soldier looks through binoculars during Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command Navy combat drills in the waters around Taiwan, Aug. 5, 2022.

Lin Jian | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

On Sunday, Chinese and Taiwanese warships played “cat and mouse” on the high seas ahead of the scheduled end of four days of unprecedented Chinese military exercises launched in response to a visit to Taiwan by the US president.

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island last week infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over the island’s capital for the first time and cutting links communication with the United States.

About 10 Chinese and Taiwanese warships sailed closely through the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line, an unofficial buffer zone separating the two sides, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The island’s defense ministry said in a statement that several Chinese military ships, planes and drones were simulating attacks on the island and its navy. He said he sent planes and ships to respond “appropriately”.

As Chinese forces “pressed” on the line, as they did on Saturday, the Taiwanese side remained close to watch and, where possible, deny the Chinese the ability to cross, the person said.

“Both sides are showing restraint,” the person said, calling the high seas maneuvers a “cat and mouse.”

“One side tries to cross, and the other stands in the way and forces them into a more disadvantaged position and ends up going back to the other side.”

Taiwan said its land-based anti-ship missiles and Patriot surface-to-air missiles were on standby.

The Chinese drills, centered on six sites around the island that China claims to be its own, began on Thursday and are expected to last until noon Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency reported last week.

The Chinese military said on Saturday that the joint sea and air drills, north, southwest and east of Taiwan, focused on land strike and sea assault capabilities.

The United States qualified the climbing exercises.

“These activities constitute a significant escalation in China’s efforts to change the status quo. They are provocative, irresponsible and increase the risk of miscalculation,” a White House spokesperson said.

“They are also at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which the world has come to expect.”

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“Damage the Peace”

China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China’s claims that only the Taiwanese people can decide their future.

China also warned the United States not to “act recklessly” and create a bigger crisis.

Referring to the response to Pelosi’s visit, the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said China had adopted “effective measures which fully demonstrate that China is fully determined and capable of safeguarding national unity. and to safeguard (…) sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang told reporters that China had “arrogantly” used military action to disrupt peace and called on Beijing not to use military force.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday its forces had dispatched jets to warn 20 Chinese planes, including 14 that had crossed the median line. It also detected 14 Chinese vessels operating around the Taiwan Strait.

The ministry released a photograph showing Taiwanese sailors closely watching a nearby Chinese vessel.

Taiwanese forces fired flares on Friday to warn drones flying over its Kinmen Islands and unidentified planes flying over its Matsu Islands. Both groups of islands are close to the Chinese coast.

“The world faces a choice”

As part of its response to Pelosi’s visit, China has cut off communication through various channels with the United States, including between military theater and climate change commands.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused China of taking “irresponsible” action and moving away from prioritizing peaceful resolution in favor of the use of force.

Pelosi, a longtime China critic and political ally of US President Joe Biden, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday evening during the highest-level visit by a US official to the island in decades, despite Chinese warnings. She said her visit showed the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwanese democracy.

“The world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” she said. She also stressed that her trip “was not intended to change the status quo in Taiwan or the region.”

Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists seized power in Beijing after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang nationalists in a civil war, prompting their retreat to the island.

Speaking during a visit to the Philippines, Blinken said the United States had heard the concerns of its allies over what he called dangerous and destabilizing actions by China, but that Washington was seeking to avoid making the situation worse.

He said China’s cessation of bilateral dialogue in eight key areas was a measure that would punish the world.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday accused Blinken of spreading “disinformation”.

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