Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) high-profile trip showing solidarity with Taiwan, Washington and Taipei are taking drastically different tracks toward China’s retaliatory military drills encircling the island.
In an unprecedented show of force, China has sent warships and aircraft through the Taiwan Strait and fired missiles into waters surrounding the island it views as its own territory under its One China policy.
Taiwan has since accused Beijing of not only rehearsing for an invasion of the self-governing island, but of signaling its ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has largely played it cool when addressing the war games.
Concerned ‘as much’ as they are: “I’m concerned they are moving as much as they are,” President Biden told reporters on Monday. “But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are.”
The Pentagon’s top policy official Colin Kahl also offered a measured response to reporters on Monday when asked if China was gearing up to militarily seize Taiwan in the next few years.
“Clearly the [People’s Republic of China] is trying to coerce Taiwan, clearly they’re trying to coerce the international community, and all I’ll say is we’re not going to take the bait and it’s not going to work,” Kahl said.
Unprecedented drills: The Chinese drills, which began Thursday in retaliation for Pelosi’s trip and were extended on Sunday, are Beijing’s largest-ever wargames in the Taiwan Strait and have included a dozen missile exercises that bracketed Taiwan. Beijing also upped the pace of naval and air activities in the waterway, including those that crossed over the median line between mainland China and Taiwan.
Though crossing the center line was a rare move for Beijing before 2019 – when it sent aircraft over the divider for the first time in 20 years – the country has done so several times since.
Taiwan’s response: Taiwan has sounded the alarm over the exercises, with its Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warning that China looks to control more of the western Pacific. That dominance would include the East and South China Seas and the Taiwan Strait, as well as a blockade to keep the U.S. and its allies from helping Taipei should Beijing attack, according to The Associated Press.
Wu also said China’s claim that its wargames were prompted by Pelosi’s trip is simply cover for undertaking long planned military posturing.
Averting misunderstandings: The Biden administration has remained outwardly cool, with the Pentagon in the past several weeks looking to quell any perceived aggression that may arise from U.S. military movement.
On Thursday the Defense Department for a second time held off on a planned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launch to reduce “the risks of miscalculation and misperception,” amid China’s posturing, according to John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator.
Defense officials have also stayed silent on if they’ll move any U.S. aircraft or Navy vessels closer to Taiwan should the situation grow more tense for Taipei.
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