US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has launched a rhetorical salvo at China, branding China’s decision to fire missiles directly over Taiwan as an unjustified and regrettable escalation.
Washington has repeatedly made it clear to Beijing it does not seek a crisis, Blinken told a news conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia.
But the diplomatic ructions continue over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governed island Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.
Mr Blinken said China’s actions were disproportionate and significant, and the US was seriously concerned but would not be provoked, before adding “there was no possible justification for what they have done”.
China launched its largest-ever military drills in the seas and skies around Taiwan on Thursday, a day after Pelosi enraged Beijing by making a solidarity trip to the island.
The drills are scheduled to continue until noon on Sunday.
China targets Pelosi
China’s foreign ministry announced on Friday it would sanction Pelosi in response to her “vicious” and “provocative” actions.
“Despite China’s serious concerns and firm opposition, Pelosi insisted on visiting Taiwan, seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs, undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, trampling on the one-China policy, and threatening the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” a foreign ministry official said in a statement.
On Thursday, China fired multiple missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan in an unprecedented escalation.
Japan’s defence ministry reported as many as four of the missiles flew over Taiwan’s capital.
It also said five of nine missiles fired toward its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), prompting a diplomatic protest by Tokyo.
Asked to comment on the missiles, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang referred to China as the “evil neighbour showing off her power at our door”.
Bonnie Glaser, a Washington-based Asia security specialist at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, described as “unprecedented” reports that ballistic missiles were fired over Taiwan.
About 10 Chinese navy ships and 20 military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line on Friday morning, a Taiwan source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
Earlier, Taiwan’s defence ministry said the island’s military had dispatched aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.
‘Rehearsal for a blockade’
“In my view, the larger threat is that China is doing a rehearsal for a blockade, demonstrating it can block Taiwan’s ports and airports, and prevent shipping,” Glaser said.
China has said its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter.
Responding to the Chinese drills, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan would not provoke conflicts but would firmly defend its sovereignty and national security.
Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, but Beijing says it reserves the right to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, by force if necessary.
Pelosi told reporters in Japan, during the final hours of her Asia tour, China could not isolate Taiwan by preventing Western officials from travelling there.
“This visit isn’t about me, it’s about Taiwan,” she said.
During a news conference in Tokyo, Pelosi addressed the diplomatic furore caused by the congressional visit.
“We have said from the start that our representation here is not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region,” she said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Japan’s growing concern
The delegation led by Pelosi visited Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea earlier this week, winding up their tour in Japan on Friday.
Pelosi met Kishida at his official residence, where the Japanese premier said the two allies would work together to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, an important shipping route.
China’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Japanese ambassador in Beijing on Thursday over its participation in an “erroneous” Group of Seven nations statement on Taiwan, and also made complaints to EU envoys.
Japan, whose southernmost islands are closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, has warned that Chinese intimidation of Taiwan poses an escalating national security threat.
“I have informed Speaker Pelosi that the fact China’s ballistic missiles had landed near Japanese waters including EEZ threaten our national safety and security and that Japan had strongly condemned such actions,” Kishida said.