December 1, 2023

Japan’s leader on Friday demanded that China halt its military exercises around Taiwan, a day after five of the Chinese missiles fired during the drills landed in waters that Japan claims for exclusive economic use.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for an “immediate halt” to the drills, which he said had a “serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the world,” Kyodo News reported. He spoke to reporters after meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose high-profile visit to Taiwan this week angered China and led to the military drills.

Ms. Pelosi said China “may try to prevent Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but it will not isolate Taiwan.”

At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, the first day of the drills, which are scheduled to end on Sunday. China’s People’s Liberation Army said “all had hit their targets accurately”. Japan said five of them fell in its exclusive economic zone, outside its territorial waters.

The exercises appeared to continue on Friday morning. Taiwan’s defense ministry said Chinese ships and aircraft crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.

The Ministry of Defense said it had sent its own aircraft and ships and developed ground-based missile systems to monitor the situation.

China claims Taiwan, a self-governing republic off its southern coast, as its own territory and views visits by American politicians as an affront. Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwan’s president, lawmakers and human rights activists on Wednesday, hailing the island’s commitment to democracy.

As well as demonstrating Beijing’s displeasure with her visit, the drills — planned to take place in six zones surrounding Taiwan — appear to have been designed as a test run to seal off the island as part of a possible invasion. China’s leaders, including the current Xi Jinping, have long said that Taiwan must eventually come under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.

The exercises have put the United States in a delicate position. While the Pentagon wants to protect power in the region, it is also sensitive to the risk that a military miscalculation near the island could trigger an unintended escalation.

John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said Thursday that the Pentagon had ordered the USS Ronald Reagan to “remain on station” in the area, but some distance from the entrance to the Taiwan Strait. This represents a more cautious move than was made during a crisis over Taiwan in 1996, when President Bill Clinton moved aircraft carriers closer to the strait.

The United States will resume “standard air and sea crossings through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks,” Mr. Kirby added, a sign that the White House wants the Chinese exercises to end first.

On Friday morning, the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet posted photos on Twitter of fighter jets on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during what he said were “flight operations” in the Philippine Sea, southeast of Taiwan.

It was unclear Friday how the rest of China’s exercises would play out. China’s Eastern Theater Command, which includes Taiwan, has he said he is mobilizing more than 100 fighter jets, bombers and other aircraft, as well as more than 10 destroyers and frigates, according to Reuters.

Ben Dooley contributed to the report.

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