China’s firing of missiles during military drills around Taiwan was an unjustified escalation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday, as Beijing said it would sanction House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting the island.
Washington has made it repeatedly clear to Beijing it doesn’t seek a crisis, Blinken told a news conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia as diplomatic ructions continued over Pelosi’s visit to the self-governed island that Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.
He said China’s actions were disproportionate and significant, and the United States 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’s foreign ministry announced on Friday that it would sanction Pelosi and her immediate family 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 spokesperson said in a statement.
On Thursday, China fired multiple missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan in an unprecedented escalation during live-fire exercises.
Japan’s defence ministry, which is tracking the exercises, first reported that as many as four of the missiles flew over Taiwan’s capital. It also said that five of nine missiles fired toward its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), also a first, prompting a diplomatic protest by Tokyo.
Later, Taiwan’s defence ministry said the missiles were high in the atmosphere and constituted no threat. It gave no details of their flight paths, citing intelligence concerns.
Some Taipei residents, including Mayor Ko Wen-je, criticised the government for not putting out a missile alert, but one security expert said that could have been done to avoid stoking panic and playing into China’s hands.
“It counteracted the effect of the Chinese Communist Party’s psychological warfare,” said Mei Fu-shin, a U.S.-based analyst. “The shock and fear were not as great as they could have been.”
Asked to comment on the missiles, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang did not directly respond, but 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 there.
“In my view, the larger threat is that China is doing are hearsal for a blockade, demonstrating it can block Taiwan’s ports and airports, and prevent shipping,” Glaser said.