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Chinese exercises on Taiwan, a threat as much military as economic

Let’s go. “Between 1:56 p.m. and 4 p.m., China fired eleven Dongfeng missiles at the waters north, northeast, south and east of Taiwan,” the Taiwanese Defense Ministry warned Thursday, condemning the passage these “irrational actions that destroy regional peace”. China has thus kicked off its largest military maneuvers ever conducted in the Taiwan Strait, mobilizing a hundred combat planes, a dozen frigates and destroyers.

A kind of punitive mission against the island whose sovereignty it claims, in reaction to the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the American House of Representatives who came to support Taiwanese democracy.

Its army said it was “committed to defending its sovereignty and protecting the territory” while twenty-two Chinese fighter jets were spotted on Thursday as they briefly crossed the Taiwanese air defense zone.

“Provocative” overreaction

On Thursday evening, the White House announced that it had postponed an intercontinental missile test scheduled for the next few days to avoid escalation. Washington nevertheless called China’s eleven missile launches a “provocative” overreaction, and indicated that it would continue to “monitor” the vicinity of Taiwan through one of its aircraft carriers currently in the Philippine Sea. The United States “will not allow” China to isolate Taiwan, added this Friday from Tokyo Nancy Pelosi. “They don’t decide where we go,” she added.

This Friday, Taipei said that many “planes and warships” had crossed the “median line” of the Taipei Strait, which separates the island from the mainland, at the end of the morning. “China always pushes the ball a little further to deny international space to Taiwan. We are in a sudden accentuation of what has been practiced for years, with incursions beyond the median line of the Taiwan Strait, but qualitatively very superior. We have to go back to 1993 to find such a dangerous situation,” notes François Godement, advisor for Asia at the Institut Montaigne.

The People’s Army of China has planned, according to several press reports, to add an additional day of exercises to the four already announced and plans live fire in six identified areas, sometimes only 20 kilometers from the Taiwanese coast, which has become too dangerous to leave. circulate ships and planes. Several airlines in the region have suspended their flights for a few days.

“We did not expect the malevolent neighbor to flaunt its might at our doorstep, and arbitrarily endanger the world’s busiest waterways with its military exercises,” Taiwan’s prime minister told reporters. Su Tseng-chang.

Missiles in the Japanese area

On Thursday, five Chinese missiles reportedly flew over the island of Taiwan and landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. A first, according to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Koshi. “It is a form of intimidation of Japan to push it to be as neutral as possible and to indicate to it what could be the future of the island of Okinawa, which China disputes”, observes François Godement.

Taiwan’s national security is becoming increasingly important to Japan: a former defense minister, Shigeru Ishiba, led a delegation to Taipei last week. On Wednesday, Japan signed a statement with several G7 countries condemning Chinese military exercises. As a result, a scheduled meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart as part of an ASEAN meeting in Cambodia on Thursday was canceled.

A near-blockade

“These are great maneuvers that want to show China’s ability to lead an invasion, a hypothesis in which I do not believe for the moment, explains François Godement. The most serious for the moment is the quasi-blockade, which does not even need to be decreed. It is aimed at economic strangulation of the island and coincides with China’s economic sanctions on Taiwanese agricultural products. »

According to the expert, “this serves to routinize recurring episodes of quasi-blockade, with international reactions that China hopes will be weak, and a stranglehold passed on the Taiwanese economy and foreign trade”. Admittedly, the Chinese economy will also be affected, “but we saw with the Covid that Xi Jinping could put a goal before the economy. The danger is enormous, and the United States will have to know where to draw the red line”, notes the adviser of the Montaigne Institute.

Because Beijing has clearly seen that the United States is careful not to intervene in the Russian blockade in the Black Sea. “There is a challenge in pushing the Americans against the wall with the blockade and forcing them to react with force. If the United States backs down, it would be a major political demonstration for China. We are somewhere between economic coercion and military posture,” he concludes.

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