Reuters has described a high-seas “cat and mouse” between Chinese and Taiwan warships which are shadowing each other at a moment China is scheduled to end its military drills surrounding the self-ruled island. The four days of unprecedented drills was slammed by Taipei as simulating an invasion, and saw the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soon after Nancy Pelosi’s departure fire eleven ballistic missiles near Taiwan – some of which reportedly flew over the island.
“About 10 warships each from China and Taiwan sailed at close quarters in the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides, according to a person with knowledge of the matter,” Reuters observes of Sunday tensions.
Despite these main drills which occurred in six zones off Taiwan’s coast now coming to a close, Chinese military pressure looks to continue for weeks longer, likely through to the end of the month of August.
China announced a whole new series of military drills near Taiwan, though not as close in proximity to the island as last week’s. China’s Maritime Safety Administration said in a statement that the new PLA drills will kick off in five zones of the Yellow Sea from Aug. 5 to 15. The Washington Post details:
China’s Ministry of Defense did not announce the purpose of the expanded exercises, which come as the visit frayed U.S.-China relations, but they come as Beijing is putting on its greatest show of force around Taiwan since the last cross-strait crisis of 1995 to 1996 — in what it calls a warning to “provocateurs” who challenge Beijing’s claims over Taiwan, the self-governing democracy of 23 million.
The Post further reports the simultaneous drills would take place in four zones of the Bohai Sea for a full month, which start Aug.8.
According to a weekend report in The Guardian:
Taipei said it observed “multiple” Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, believing them to be simulating an attack on the self-ruled democracy’s main island.
Over the past days of the PLA drills there have been some close-call incidents involving Chinese drone incursions, which have been warned off by Taiwan’s military firing flares, particularly over the Kinmen and Matsu islands.
— 301 Military (@301military) August 4, 2022
Despite the mainstay of PLA drills closest to Taiwan now appearing to be over, the threat of miscalculation and a serious shooting incident sparking broader conflict remains high, especially given the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group is still in the region, with the White House recently saying it would stay near Taiwan waters longer than planned.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, as tensions have risen to dangerous levels with China, President Joe Biden’s administration is lobbying Senate Democrats to “put the brakes” on the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022. The bill was recently introduced by the hawkish Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Analysts have said the bill which, inter alia, would designate Taipei a “major non-NATO ally,” could see the One-China policy “in effect gutted.” In a New York Times op-ed this week, Menendez said “we are laying out a new vision that ensures our country is positioned to defend Taiwan for decades to come.”
The bill was supposed to be called up by the Foreign Relations Committee this week, but Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said work on the bill is being delayed until next month and could see revisions. “The White House has significant concerns,” said Murphy, adding “I have significant concerns.”
The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state TV reported on Sunday, according to Reuters.
The median line is an unofficial line of control separating China and Taiwan that warships and military aircraft from the two sides usually do not cross.
Beijing launched large-scale live-fire military exercises around Taiwan this week in response to the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to the island. China considers the self-governing island its territory and opposes contacts between foreign officials and the Taipei government.
Chinese warships and jets continued to train for strikes and amphibious landings off the coast of Taiwan on Saturday. Chinese state media repeatedly described the drills as a rehearsal for “a reunification-by-force operation,” while Taipei argued that the maneuvers are tantamount to a blockade of the island. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said its Navy was tracking the movement of the Chinese ships.
“Our measures are resolute, strong and proportionate,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Saturday, adding that the drills were being done in accordance with international law. He said the exercises are aimed at “disciplining the Taiwan independence forces.”
A White House spokesperson, meanwhile, described the exercises around Taiwan as “a significant escalation in China’s efforts to change the status quo.”