China keeps up pressure on Taiwan with fourth day of drills; Taipei to conduct live-fire artillery drills

The People's Liberation Army said the exercises focused on testing its long-range air and ground strikes.
A People's Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen at the rear, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo | AP)
A People's Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen at the rear, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo | AP)

BEIJING: China said Sunday it carried out its fourth consecutive day of military drills in the air and sea around Taiwan in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island, despite international calls to calm the tensions.

The People's Liberation Army said the exercises focused on testing its long-range air and ground strikes.

It did not say if it will continue the drills after Sunday.

Taiwan said that it continued to detect several batches of Chinese aircraft, ships and drones operating around the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island and mainland China, and "simulating attacks on the island of Taiwan and our ships at sea."

Taiwan's official Central News Agency meanwhile reported that Taiwan's army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday, in response to the Chinese exercises.

The drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armoured vehicles as well as attack helicopters, said the report, which cited an anonymous source.

China set up no-go areas around Taiwan for the four-day drills it announced immediately after Pelosi's trip to Taipei on Tuesday and Wednesday which infuriated Beijing, which saw it as a violation of the "one-China" policy.

China claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary.

The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognizing its sovereignty.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence emphasised that its military was surveilling the situation and had dispatched aircraft and ships to respond accordingly.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has called on the international community to "support democratic Taiwan" and "halt any escalation of the regional security situation."

China has so far conducted missiles strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan, and sent warships across the Taiwan Straits median line.

It has also cut off defense and climate talks with the US and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for her visit.

The Biden administration and Pelosi say the US remains committed to the "one-China" policy that recognises Beijing as the legitimate government but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

The US however criticised Beijing's actions in the Taiwan Strait, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling them "fundamentally irresponsible."

"There's no need and no reason for this escalation," Jean-Pierre said.

Singapore's coordinating minister for national security Teo Chee Hean said in a Facebook post-Saturday that the US-China tensions over Taiwan is "an issue that can lead to conflict and war to the detriment of all parties involved, especially the people in Taiwan."

The tensions have a negative impact on Southeast Asia, Teo said, adding: "We hope that wisdom will prevail."

US warns Pacific islands of struggle against coercive regimes

A top US diplomat warned Pacific Islands of a new struggle against violent power-hungry regimes Sunday, as she visited the Solomon Islands to mark the 80th anniversary of World War II's Battle of Guadalcanal.

With China's military conducting drills around Taiwan and Russia bombarding Ukraine, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman hit out at a new crop of world leaders reviving "bankrupt" ideas about the use of force -- without mentioning any countries.

Attending a dawn memorial service in the Solomon Islands, Sherman said "some around the world" had forgotten the cost of war, or were ignoring the lessons of the past.

She hit out at "leaders who believe that coercion, pressure, and violence are tools to be used with impunity", but did not specify any names during her speech at the service.

The battle of Guadalcanal was a turning point in World War II.

The brutal seven-month land, sea and air fight between Allied and Japanese forces killed tens of thousands of troops -- most Japanese.

Painting the situation today as carrying faint echoes of the fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the 1930-40s, the State Department number two urged the region to push back.

"We remember how bankrupt, how empty, such views were then, and remain today," she said.

"Today we are once again engaged in a different kind of struggle -- a struggle that will go on for some time to come."

Sherman's trip comes as the United States tries to rebuild diplomatic relations in the Pacific, where China is growing stronger and democratic alliances have faltered.

- Sogavare no-show -

Nowhere is the United States's waning regional influence more evident than in the Solomon Islands.

The government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare recently signed a secretive security pact with Beijing, moved to curb press freedoms, and suggested delaying elections.

Sherman, again without mentioning names, told her hosts: "It is up to us to decide if we want to continue having societies where people are free to speak their minds."

It is time, she said, to decide "if we want to have governments that are transparent and accountable to their people".

Sogavare was slated to attend the ceremony, appearing on the event programme, but was a no-show.

He did, however, meet Sherman later, for what she described as "wide-ranging" talks.

As well as warnings, Sherman said Washington wants to increase cooperation with the "absolutely critical" Pacific island nations, including by opening embassies in Tonga, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands.

As part of the charm offensive, US President Joe Biden is also expected to invite Pacific Island leaders to the White House for a September summit.

Solomon Islands police and security minister Anthony Veke welcomed what he termed US "re-engagement" with the country and the region.

But he called on Washington to launch a "scaled-up effort" to remove unexploded WWII ordnance that continues to injure and kill Solomon Islanders to this day.

(With AFP Inputs)

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