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WATCH | China to launch 'targeted military operations' due to Pelosi visit

02 August 2022 - 17:48 By Debby Wu and Cindy Wang
Protesters gather outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in support of the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2 2022.
Protesters gather outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in support of the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2 2022.
Image: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg

The Chinese military has been put on high alert and will launch "targeted military operations" in response to US House Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, China's defence ministry said on Tuesday night.

Separately, the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command said it will conduct joint military operations near Taiwan from Tuesday night.

The exercises will include joint air and sea drills in the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan, long-range live firing in the Taiwan Strait, and missile test-launches in the sea east of Taiwan, the Eastern Theatre Command said.

The defence ministry did not provide details about what the targeted military operations would include, or if they were separate from the exercises announced by Eastern Theatre Command.

State news agency Xinhua said earlier on Tuesday the Chinese military would conduct live-firing drills and other exercises around Taiwan from August 4 to August 7.

Pelosi’s military aircraft arrived at Songshan Airport at 10.43pm local time, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last week he would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that “whoever plays with fire will get burnt”.

Traders braced for bad news ahead of the visit, with stocks sliding and haven assets such as the yen and treasuries climbing. While there are few signs China is planning a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, Beijing has responded to past visits by foreign officials with large sorties into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone or across the median line that divides the strait. 

Taiwan faced cyberattacks ahead of Pelosi’s arrival, with the presidential office saying it suffered a 20-minute barrage in the early evening hours that was 200 times worse than usual. The website of the foreign ministry also appeared to have periodic disruptions.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said Tuesday that the island’s military was prepared to send “appropriate armed forces according to the threat,” adding that it was “determined, confident and capable of ensuring national security”.

Pelosi is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan since then-house speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. That came shortly after the last major crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when China lobbed missiles into the sea near ports and then-president Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area.

Pelosi will visit Taiwan’s parliament Wednesday morning, have lunch with President Tsai Ing-wen and also meet democracy activists, according to local media reports. The previously unannounced stop in Taiwan comes after Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Singapore and Malaysia. They will head next to South Korea and Japan, two staunch US allies.

While the White House has sought to dial back rising tensions with China, emphasising that Congress is an independent branch of government, Beijing has rejected that argument. On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying slammed the “provocative” visit and said any countermeasures from Beijing would be “justified”. Still, she left the door open for a possible in-person summit between Biden and Xi later this year.

Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue between the US and China, with the potential to one day spark a military conflict. Biden said in May that Washington would intervene to defend Taiwan in any attack from China, though the White House later clarified he meant the US would provide weapons, in accordance with existing agreements.

Chinese media outlets including the Communist Party’s Global Times have suggested the People’s Liberation Army would respond aggressively to a Pelosi trip.

Under an agreement reached in 1978 to normalise relations between China and the US, Washington agreed to recognise only Beijing as the seat of China’s government, while acknowledging — but not endorsing — the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.

The US has insisted that any unification between the island and mainland must be peaceful, and supplied Taiwan with advanced weaponry while remaining deliberately ambiguous about whether US forces would help defend against a Chinese attack.

Visits by lower level US politicians have also prompted military responses by China. Last November, Chinese warplanes flew around the east side of the island after a visit by a US congressional delegation.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

The Taipei 101 building lit up with a message reading "Speaker Pelosi" as a welcome sign for US house speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2 2022.
The Taipei 101 building lit up with a message reading "Speaker Pelosi" as a welcome sign for US house speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2 2022.
Image: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg

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