Conducting military drills in Taiwan Strait: what message is Beijing relaying?
Chinese supreme Xi Jinping had warned his US counterpart Joe Biden against any kind of “interference” in its rising conflict with Taiwan. But when United States Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi made it a point to visit Taiwan as part of her high profile trip to Asia, Beijing made it a point to express its resentment and disapproval. China has ordered unprecedented military drills in Taiwan Strait, triggering panic wave across the region.
Real message through Beijing’s military drills
As the military drills began on Thursday and are expected to continue for four days, China is sending a clear message to Taipei, Washington and Tokyo – what happens in Taiwan Strait is only decided by Beijing.
Now talking about the timing of military drills. Did the military exercises start as part of the snap decision by Beijing triggered by Pelosi’s visit to Taipei? Experts say the drills are rather part of the continuing relentless efforts by China to bring Taiwan under its control. It would be safe to say that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has just brought the agenda of Beijing wanting to bring Taipei under its direct control to the forefront. “That’s what Nancy Pelosi really accomplished, raising global awareness of China’s sustained military coercion campaign against Taiwan that’s been going on for more than a decade,” said Drew Thompson, visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Talking about the Chinese exercises, Thompson said, “They do it every year. The difference this year is that we’re paying attention.”
Taipei and Tokyo on high alert
The drills starting and Chinese warships and jets crossing the median line of the airspace between mainland China and Taiwan have put government in Taipei on high alert. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to “firmly defend our sovereignty and national security, and stick to the line of defense of democracy and freedom.”
The other country to have been alerted by the drills by Beijing is Japan as five of the Chinese jets have landed inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone – “an area of the ocean where a country enjoys special rights to resources like fishing and mining under the seabed”. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the Chinese drills were “a serious issue concerning the security of our country and its people,” and demanded the immediate halt of all exercises.
No surprises for Washington
Washington is, however, not surprised. “We anticipated that China might take steps like this — in fact, I described them for you in quite some detail just the other day,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told media on Thursday at the White House. “We also expect that these actions will continue and that the Chinese will continue to react in the coming days.”