US claims ‘significant escalation’ by China
The large-scale drills launched by the Chinese military in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan earlier this week are “a significant escalation” to the tensions in the region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
China “should not use the visit as a pretext for war, escalation, for provocative actions,” Blinken told journalists on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Friday.
Pelosi’s trip to the self-governed island was peaceful and does not mean that Washington has changed its policy towards China, so “there is no possible justification” for the unprecedented wargames now being staged by Beijing around Taiwan, he said, adding that China should “cease these actions.”
Blinken delivered a speech at the summit, with top diplomats from the Asia-Pacific region, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, attending.
During his address, the secretary of state described China’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit as “flagrantly provocative,” a Western official who was in the audience told Reuters.
By launching the largest ever military drills in the Taiwan Strait, he said, Beijing is trying to intimidate not only Taipei, but its neighbors as well, the source revealed.
Another official who spoke to Bloomberg said that Blinken accused China of attempting to disrupt the status quo around Taiwan through it provocative actions.
Also on Friday, the Chinese ambassador to the US was summoned to the White House to discuss the current spike in tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Wang, who held a meeting with Lavrov in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, also commented on Pelosi’s trip to Taipei, saying that Beijing had no other choice but to “respond harshly to it.”
“This vulgar comedy is sure to have serious consequences for the US, and Washington bears all responsibility for this,” the Chinese foreign minister said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
The actions of the US House speaker were “a serious violation of the One China policy” and an infringement on the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Wang stated. “No one, no political power, no country will be able to split Taiwan from China.”
Pelosi, who is third in line to the US presidency, arrived in Taiwan late Tuesday and left the next day, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit the island since 1997.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its territory as part of the One China policy, responded to the visit by announcing military exercises and live-fire drills in six maritime areas around the island and slapping trade restrictions on Taipei.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that Pelosi and her immediate family members will also be sanctioned.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, but never officially declared independence from China. Despite officially recognizing Beijing as the sole legitimate authority in China since 1979, the US maintains strong unofficial ties with island of 23.5 million, selling weapons to Taipei and supporting its push for sovereignty.