China plans to conduct military exercises around Taiwan

Although much attention has been paid to spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the real possibility of a military confrontation will come after her departure.

The Chinese military said it will conduct a series of live-fire exercises starting on Thursday, the day after it departed. A post on Chinese state media showed the coordinates of five marine areas surrounding Taiwan, three of which overlap with areas that Taiwan says are part of its territorial waters.

The exercises, assuming they go ahead, will pose a direct challenge to what Taiwan calls its coast. And they strike at the center of a decades-old feud in which China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-governing island with its democratically elected government and army.

A New York Times map of the planned exercises shows how they will take place in some places within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coast, areas beyond those targeted by previous live-fire exercises and within areas Taiwan designated as territorial waters. Two of the areas where the Chinese military will launch weapons, likely missiles and artillery, are within what Taiwan calls its maritime borders. In total, the five regions surround the island and represent a clear escalation from previous Chinese exercises.

In its warning, the Chinese military called on all boats and planes to avoid the areas it specified for a period of three days. For Taiwan and the US military, the main question will be whether they obey orders or test China’s resolve to conduct the tests by sending boats and planes to those areas.

The confrontation is reminiscent of an incident in 1995 and 1996 called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. at that time,

China fired live ammunition and missiles into the waters around Taiwan to signal its anger over a trip by then-President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, to the United States. Then the United States sent two aircraft carrier groups to the region and one sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

The new live-fire exercises will take place in areas closer to the island than those in 1995 and 1996, which is a mystery to Taiwan and the United States. If China takes action, it will have to decide whether to put up a show of force similar to the previous crisis.

A lot has changed since then. The Chinese army became stronger and more daring under the leader Xi Jinping. This summer, Chinese officials also forcefully emphasized that no part of the Taiwan Strait can be considered international waters, meaning they could move to intercept and block US warships navigating the area, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

China has wasted little time in indicating that it is serious. On Wednesday, the state broadcaster released images from preparatory exercises in the area indicating that Chinese forces were in north, southwest and southeast Taiwan to carry out naval attacks, ground strikes, air combat and “joint containment.”

Also on Wednesday, the Taiwanese military sought to hold on to the line, while indicating that it did not wish to escalate the situation. Describing the exercises as a blockade, she said the exercises stormed Taiwan’s territorial waters and jeopardized international waterways and regional security.

“We resolutely defend national sovereignty and will repel any aggression against national sovereignty,” Major General Sun Lifang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, said in response to the exercises.

“We will strengthen our vigilance with a rational attitude that does not lead to an escalation of conflicts,” he added.

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