Taiwan accuses China of simulating invasion on main island; North Korea slams Pelosi

Beijing's military overnight released a video of an air force pilot filming the island's coastline and mountains from his cockpit.

Published: 06th August 2022 10:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2022 10:14 AM   |  A+A-

Taiwan Air Force Mirage fighter jets taxi on a runway at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

BEIJING: Taiwan accused the Chinese army of simulating an attack on its main island Saturday, as Beijing doubled down on its retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei after announcing a suspension of cooperation with Washington on key issues.

Relations between the two superpowers have nosedived in the wake of Pelosi's trip to China's self-ruled neighbour -- which it claims as its territory -- prompting calls from the UN for an urgent de-escalation of tensions.

And Friday saw the environment become the latest victim of the geopolitical jousting, as Beijing said it would withdraw from a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington -- most notably on climate change and defence cooperation.

The world's two largest polluters had pledged to work together to accelerate climate action this decade and vowed to meet regularly to tackle the crisis -- a deal that now looks shaky.

Beijing on Saturday continued some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan -- exercises aimed at practicising a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island, analysts say.

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.

"Multiple batches of Communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line," its defence ministry said in a statement, referring to a demarcation line that runs down the Taiwan Strait which Beijing does not recognise.

ALSO READ | China says ending cooperation with US, halts climate, military ties over Pelosi Taiwan visit

In a bid to show just how close China's forces have been getting to Taiwan's shores, Beijing's military overnight released a video of an air force pilot filming the island's coastline and mountains from his cockpit.

And Beijing also said they would hold a live-fire drill in a southern part of the Yellow Sea -- located between China and the Korean peninsula -- from Saturday until August 15.

China's state broadcaster, CCTV, has reported that Chinese missiles have flown directly over Taiwan during the exercises -- a major escalation if confirmed.

But Taipei has remained defiant, insisting it would not be cowed by its "evil neighbour".

- 'Punishing the whole world' -

The scale and intensity of China's drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies, with the White House summoning China's ambassador to Washington on Friday to rebuke him over Beijing's actions.

And Beijing's decision to withdraw from hard-won cooperation on climate change has now sparked wider fears about the future of the planet.

"It's obviously worrying and raises concerns," Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, a climate-focused think tank, told AFP.

It's "impossible to address the climate emergency if the world's number one and number two economies and number one and number two emitters are not taking action," he said.

"And it's always preferable that they do that in a collaborative way."

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington the decision was "fundamentally irresponsible."

"They're actually punishing the whole world, because the climate crisis doesn't recognize geographic boundaries and borders," Kirby said.

ALSO READ | China's Taiwan military drills 'a significant escalation', says US Secretary of State Blinken

"The world's largest emitter now is refusing to engage on critical steps necessary to combat the climate crisis."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the two superpowers must continue to work together -- for the world's sake.

"For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

- 'The new normal' -

But with tensions over Taiwan having risen to their highest level in nearly 30 years with an elevated risk of military conflict, experts told AFP the latest downturn in relations between the two superpowers could be deep and long-lasting.

"The relationship is in a very bad place right now," said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund.

The suspension Friday of bilateral military and maritime dialogue while China continues its military exercises was "particularly worrisome,” she said.

"We don't know what else they will do," she said. "We just don't know if this is just a temporary thing."

John Culver, a former CIA Asia analyst, said in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Beijing's main purpose with its military exercises was to change that status quo.

"I think that this is the new normal," Culver said.

"The Chinese want to show... that a line has been crossed by the speaker's visit."

North Korea slams Pelosi over visit to DMZ

North Korea on Saturday slammed US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her recent visit to the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, calling her the "worst destroyer of international peace".

Pelosi, who visited Seoul earlier this week following a trip to Taiwan, became the highest-ranking US official to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) between the two Koreas since then-president Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un there in 2019.

Prior to the JSA visit, Pelosi discussed the "grave situation" and growing threat posed by the North's nuclear weapons programme with her South Korean counterpart, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo.

The pair called for "strong and extended deterrence against North Korea", and vowed to support efforts by Washington and Seoul to achieve Pyongyang's denuclearisation.

ALSO READ | China summons European diplomats over statement criticising military drill in Taiwan

The North on Saturday denounced Pelosi for both her discussions with Kim and her visit to the JSA.

On top of the deterrence talks, Pelosi "made her appearance even in the joint security area of Panmunjom, utterly betraying the vision of the hostile policy of the current U.S. administration towards the DPRK," said Jo Yong Sam, an official at North Korea's foreign ministry, using the North's official name.

"The U.S. is just adding fuel to the fire," Jo added in a statement carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.

The JSA is the only spot along the tense, 250-kilometre (155-mile) frontier where soldiers from North Korea and the US-led United Nations Command stand face to face.

- 'US will have to pay' -

Pelosi's Taiwan visit, meanwhile, drew threats and massive military drills from China, which sees the self-ruled island as a part of its territory and has vowed to take it, by force if necessary.

China is the North's key ally and trade partner, and Pyongyang also lashed out at Pelosi over the visit.

"Pelosi, the worst destroyer of international peace and stability... incurred the wrath of the Chinese people for her recent junket to Taiwan," the foreign ministry's Jo said in the statement.

"The U.S. will have to pay dearly for all the sources of trouble spawned by her wherever she went."

The rebuke from the North comes about a week after Kim Jong Un said his country was "ready to mobilise" its nuclear deterrent in any future military conflict with the United States and Seoul.

North Korea has conducted a record-breaking blitz of weapons tests so far this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

Washington and Seoul officials have repeatedly warned that the North is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test -- a move that the United States warned would provoke a "swift and forceful" response.



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