(CNSNews.com) – After Beijing’s warning of “countermeasures” in response to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California, Taiwan’s military is closely watching Chinese military movements in waters around the island which China claims as its own.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, Shandong, sailed past Taiwan’s southern tip with its carrier group earlier in the week.
It is currently located around 200 nautical miles east of Taiwan’s southernmost point, shadowed by two Taiwanese frigates, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told lawmakers in Taipei on Thursday. Japan’s Navy, monitoring waters south of the Japanese archipelago, said it was the first time the Shandong has been detected in the area.
The U.S. Navy carrier USS Nimitz is also in the western Pacific, about 400 nautical miles east of Taiwan, according to Chiu, although he said he could not confirm that it was dispatched in response to Shandong’s arrival in the area.
(The USS Nimitz carrier strike group earlier this week held two days of joint drills with Japanese and South Korean warships south of the Korean peninsula, which lies to Taiwan’s northeast.)
Although China’s defense ministry has not commented publicly on the Shandong’s deployment, it did issue a statement on Thursday in response to Tsai’s high-profile meeting with McCarthy and a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers.
“We firmly oppose all forms of official interaction between the United States and Taiwan and any visit by leader of the Taiwan authorities to the United States in any name or under whatever pretext,” it said.
“The People’s Liberation Army of China will stand by its responsibility and mission and always keep on high alert,” the ministry said.
In a possibly related development, maritime authorities in China’s Fujian province, which lies across the strait from Taiwan, announced a three-day “law enforcement” patrol in the waterway, which it said would include at-sea inspections of cargo and construction vessels.
The patrols, being led by China’s largest and newest coast guard cutter, are purportedly aimed at ensuring “the safety of vessel navigation.” But Taiwan’s maritime authority said it has notified shipping operators to refuse any Chinese requests for on-site “boardings and inspections” and notify the Taiwanese coast guard immediately.
Chinese government agencies unleashed a barrage of condemnation in response to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning pledging that “China will take strong and resolute measures to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) department dealing with the island, the “Taiwan Work Office,” said the actions of Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “can never change the fact that Taiwan is part of China, and will only push Taiwan to the brink of war and bring great suffering to the Taiwan compatriots.”
“Any activity seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ will be smashed by the mighty anti-secession and pro-reunification forces of the Chinese people,” it said in a statement.
The foreign affairs committee of China’s rubberstamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, said the meeting in California “seriously breached international law and the basic norms governing international relations.”
‘Ensure that their losses outweigh the gains’
State media outlets predicted a response of “countermeasures” akin to the reaction to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last summer, the first by a House speaker in 25 years.
Then, the PLA Navy launched its biggest military exercises ever near the island, including the firing of ballistic missiles in close proximity to Taiwan. China also suspended bilateral contacts with the U.S. in several key areas, including talks on climate change.
“Every so-called breakthrough made by the collusion between the U.S. and Taiwan island will be met with our resolute countermeasures to ensure that their losses outweigh the gains,” the CCP paper Global Times said in an editorial.
“Just like last year’s countermeasures against Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan, they will not be one-off but will be carried out in our determined way and rhythm,” it said. “The result of the countermeasures will ensure that the mainland’s dominant position and initiative in the Taiwan Straits situation will be further consolidated and strengthened.”
China Daily, also a CCP publication, said the U.S. had disrespected “repeated warnings lodged by China in recent days,” and had “obstinately allowed” Tsai to visit and to meet with the House Speaker.
At their meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, Tsai thanked America for its support for her country at a time of stepped-up Chinese threats.
“It is no secret that today the peace that we have maintained and the democracy which [we] have worked hard to build are facing unprecedented challenges,” she said. “We once again find ourselves in a world where democracy is under threat and the urgency of keeping the beacon of freedom shining cannot be understated.”
McCarthy told Tsai he belies the U.S.-Taiwan bond “is stronger now than at any point in my life.”
“And of course, President Tsai is a champion of that relationship,” he added, describing Taiwan as “a successful democracy, a thriving economy and a global leader in health and science.”
“The friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance to the free world.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview in Brussels on Thursday the U.S. was not seeking conflict with China but wants to preserve peace and stability in the region.
He said that in his conversations with NATO counterparts in Brussels and with U.S. allies in Asia, he had heard “concern that were there to be a crisis as a result of China’s actions over Taiwan, that would have repercussions for quite literally every country on earth.”
He noted that 50 percent of global commercial shipborne traffic moves through the Taiwan Strait every day, and that 70 percent of semiconductors – critical components of virtually all modern electronic technology – are made in Taiwan.
“If there was some kind of crisis as a result of something that China did, that would have terribly disruptive effects on the global economy,” Blinken said, “which is why countries around the world look to everyone to behave and act responsibly.”
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