PHNOM PENH: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday (Aug 5) condemned China’s military drills encircling Taiwan as “a significant escalation”.
Blinken said there was “no justification” for the exercises launched by Beijing in response to a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships around Taiwan, declaring multiple no-go danger zones in some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
“These provocative actions are a significant escalation,” Blinken said after talks with Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Phnom Penh.
Blinken said this week’s stand-off was Beijing’s latest attempt to alter the fragile status quo over self-ruled Taiwan, which China regards as part of its territory to be recovered, by force if necessary.
He said he had warned Wang Yi at a recent meeting in Indonesia that Pelosi – the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years – would likely make the trip to the island.
“We anticipated that China might take steps like this – in fact, we described this exact scenario,” Blinken said.
“The fact is, the speaker’s visit was peaceful. There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalatory military response.”
He emphasised that the United States would not take actions to provoke a crisis, but it would continue to support regional allies and conduct standard air and maritime transit through the Taiwan Strait.
“We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said.
Beijing has insisted its war games are a “necessary” response to Pelosi’s visit.
Blinken is in Cambodia meeting counterparts from Southeast Asian and 27 other countries, including China, Japan, Britain, the European Union and India. He did not meet with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is hosting the gathering, earlier called for restraint from all sides and said there was a risk of miscalculation and conflict between major powers.
Blinken said ASEAN and other Asian officials were seriously concerned that actions by China would destabilise the entire region.
“The last thing that countries in the region want is to see differences between mainland China and Taiwan … to be resolved by force,” Blinken said after Friday’s East Asia Summit.
“It is incumbent upon us and China to act responsibly. What we don’t want are efforts by any country, including China and Russia, to disrupt international peace and security,” he said.
“DISPROPORTIONATE AND DESTABILISING”
Australia on Friday slammed China’s launch of missiles into waters near Taiwan, labelling the military drills encircling the island “disproportionate and destabilising”.
Canberra’s foreign minister Penny Wong urged “restraint and de-escalation” following the launches and said she had expressed concern to her Chinese counterpart.
“Australia is deeply concerned about the launch of ballistic missiles by China into waters around Taiwan’s coastline,” Wong said in a statement.
“These exercises are disproportionate and destabilising,” she added.
“Australia shares the region’s concerns about this escalating military activity, especially the risks of miscalculation.”
Wong, who is also attending the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, said she had spoken with other regional foreign ministers about the drills.
Taiwan on Friday condemned its “evil neighbour”, with its premier Su Tseng-chang calling for allies to push for de-escalation.
“(We) didn’t expect that the evil neighbour next door would show off its power at our door and arbitrarily jeopardise the busiest waterways in the world with its military exercises,” he told reporters.
Following ballistic missiles fired by China landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the first time on Thursday, Tokyo’s defence minister Nobuo Kishi called the matter “a serious problem that affects our national security and the safety of our citizens”.
He said that the Japan had “lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels”, declining to comment on China’s intentions regarding the drills, but calling them “extremely menacing”.