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China's missile launches and military drills around Taiwan following Pelosi's visit look like a rehearsal for seizing the island, China experts say

·5 min read
China's missile launches and military drills around Taiwan following Pelosi's visit look like a rehearsal for seizing the island, China experts say
The Rocket Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts conventional missile tests into the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022
The Rocket Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts conventional missile tests into the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022.Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS
  • China's staging provocative military drills near Taiwan in response to Pelosi's visit.

  • Experts say the drills are not just about signaling but serve as a rehearsal for seizing the island.

  • One expert told Insider Beijing is signaling "how willing China is to use military force over Taiwan."

In the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial trip to Taiwan, the Chinese military is staging massive, provocative live-fire exercises in close proximity to the island — which has included launching missiles into nearby waters.

Experts on the region say that the joint air and sea exercises not only signal China's anger over Pelosi's visit, but also serve as a kind of practice for what would be needed to take Taiwan by force. China regards Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as a breakaway part of its own territory. The Chinese government has said it wants to achieve the "reunification" of China and Taiwan peacefully, but it has not excluded the possibility of achieving this goal through military force.

The drills being held by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are intended to serve multiple purposes, including to "rehearse for a blockade or other major military operations against Taiwan (including preventing third countries from intervening)," Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.

The exercises are also meant to "punish Taiwan and undermine Taiwan's morale and support for President Tsai" while signaling to Washington, Taipei, and the international community "how willing China is to use military force over Taiwan," Lin added, going on to say that Beijing also hopes to discourage other countries from supporting Taiwan or sending government officials to visit in the future.

The immediate purposes of the drills are to present "a show of force to respond to Pelosi's visit" and "to exhibit [China's] displeasure" and "presumably to deter the US or other countries from undertaking visits like this in the future," Lyle Morris, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation who focuses on China's foreign policy and military, told Insider.

But another purpose of the drills is to show the Chinese military's "readiness to respond to Taiwan provocations" that China regards as breaking from the status quo, which "naturally support PLA capabilities to blockade or invade Taiwan in the future," added Morris, who also served as the Country Director for China in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2021.

Oriana Skylar Mastro, an expert on the Chinese military and fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, told The New York Times the Chinese drills are "not just about the messaging."

"Under the guise of signaling, they're trying to basically test their ability to conduct complex maneuvers that are necessary for an amphibious assault on Taiwan," Mastro said.

An article published on the Chinese Ministry of Defense website said the exercises "focus on key training sessions including joint blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, airspace control operation, and the joint combat capabilities of the troops got tested in the military operations," and the nationalist and often provocative Chinese state-affiliated media outlet Global Times also characterized the drills as "rehearsals for the PLA to reunify the island by force."

Meanwhile, Taiwanese officials described the exercises, which have encircled the island, as "tantamount to an air and sea blockade."

On Thursday, as China carried out its drills, at least 11 Chinese ballistic missiles were fired into waters around Taiwan, Taiwan's Defense Ministry confirmed.

Several missiles reportedly flew over the island itself, and the Japanese government said five missiles landed in water close to Taiwan that are part of its Exclusive Economic Zone. "This is a grave issue that concerns our country's national security and the safety of the people," Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, according to Kyodo News.

In the midst of the live-fire military drills, which are poised to continue until Sunday, Chinese warplanes also repeatedly crossed the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait.

The situation has the  region on edge and is raising some concerns that a broader crisis with global implications could be on the horizon — particularly given the Taiwan Strait is a major trade route.

"China is upping the ante by what it is doing militarily vs Taiwan. My sense is the leadership is responding to nationalist sentiment as much as anything else. The danger is that [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] will feel the need to continue escalating, turning a manufactured crisis into a real one," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet on Thursday.

Along these lines, some China watchers and others in the US foreign policy community have questioned the wisdom of Pelosi visiting Taiwan. Prior to her arrival, China warned that the visit could provoke a military response. Beijing said it would regard the visit of such a high-ranking US lawmaker as undermining the US government's longstanding policy of not supporting Taiwan's independence.

But Pelosi said that traveling to Taiwan served as important symbol of America's commitment to democracy, particularly at a time when China is increasingly aggressive in the region.

Bonnie Glaser, a leading China expert and director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Insider last week that US policy toward Taiwan needs "to be more clear and more consistent."

"The US says it doesn't support Taiwan independence. We have to be clear about what that means we will not do," she said, noting though that more of the blame for current tensions can be attributed to Beijing.

The White House insists that there's been no change to US policy, as it decries China over the military drills. National security advisor Jake Sullivan told NPR on Wednesday that "we believe that what China is doing here is not responsible. We believe that it is escalating tensions unnecessarily. And this is particularly so because what the speaker did in visiting Taiwan is not unprecedented, it is not threatening to China, it is not out of the historical norm."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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