China has doubled down on its retaliatory response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and announced a suspension of cooperation with the United States on major issues as it was set for Saturday to continue intensive military exercises in the strait.
Relations between the two superpowers have plummeted in the wake of Pelosi’s trip to self-governing Taiwan – which China claims as its territory – leading to calls from the United Nations to urgently de-escalate tensions.
Friday saw the environment become the latest victim of geopolitical competition, with Beijing saying it would withdraw from a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington – most notably on climate change and defense cooperation.
The world’s two biggest polluters pledged to work together to accelerate climate action this decade and pledged to meet regularly to tackle the crisis – a deal that now looks shaky.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has warned that China’s decision to launch high-powered missiles into the waters around the Taiwanese coast is “dangerous for the region”, calling for “restraint and de-escalation”.
Beijing has begun several days of military exercises after Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week.
The Chinese government has yet to officially confirm whether the missiles flew over the islands during the exercises, while Taipei has refused to confirm or deny the flight paths, citing intelligence concerns.
But the Japanese Defense Ministry said that of the nine missiles it had detected, “four are believed to have flown over the main island of Taiwan”.
“Our exercises this time included live-fire tests, and it was the first time they crossed the island of Taiwan,” Meng Xiangqing, a professor at China’s Army National Defense University, told state broadcaster CCTV, praising the meticulousness of Beijing’s capabilities.
He added that they passed through an airspace where Patriots are heavily deployed – a highly mobile surface-to-air missile system that would be a critical defense against Chinese warplanes.
Professor Meng said the recent exercises also represented the PLA’s closest ever maneuvers to the island, its first encirclement and the first time it set up a firing range east of Taiwan.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the army “flyed more than 100 warplanes, including fighters and bombers” during the exercises, in addition to “more than 10 destroyers and frigates.”
The latest exercises are expected to continue until midday on Sunday, and have sparked outrage from Australia, the United States, Japan and the European Union, as well as Taipei.
‘Australia is very concerned’: Penny Wong
“Australia is deeply concerned about China’s firing of ballistic missiles into the waters around the Taiwanese coast,” Ms. Wong said in a statement on Friday.
These exercises are disproportionate and destabilizing.”
Ms Wong’s statement also referred to Australia’s close strategic partner, Japan, while warning of the risk of accidental conflict in the region due to “miscalculation”.
“This is a serious matter for the region, including our close strategic partner, Japan,” she said.
Penny Wong attends the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia. source: Environmental Protection Agency / Keith Seery/EPA
“Australia shares the region’s concerns about this escalating military activity, in particular the risks of miscalculation. We urge restraint and de-escalation,” he added.
Acting Prime Minister and Defense Secretary Richard Marles said China’s missile launch near Taiwan was a breach of UN rules that require countries to ensure peace and security in international waters.
“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a fully understood treaty and an accepted part of the architecture of the rules-based global order,” he said.
How this applies to the Taiwan Strait is also clear. This applies to the Taiwan Strait.”
White House spokesman John Kirby called it an overreaction by China and an “excuse” for increased military activity around the Taiwan Strait.
China defends the exercises as mere countermeasures in the face of provocations by the United States and its allies in Taiwan.
The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and Australia also issued a joint statement condemning China’s actions after their meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh on Friday.
The statement said the three leaders share common interests and values, including “a commitment to freedom, rule of law, human rights, sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resort to threat or use of force, and freedom of navigation and overflight.” .
Ms. Wong said she expressed Australia’s concerns to China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, along with other foreign ministers from the region while attending the ASEAN Summit.
She said State Department officials also reiterated Australia’s concerns about the Chinese government.
China has become a growing diplomatic concern for Australia, in the wake of trade tensions and embargoes on Australian products .
Ms Wong has made strengthening Australia’s influence in the Pacific one of her top priorities since Labor’s election victory in May.