China announced on Friday it was suspending dialogue with the US on a range of areas, including between theater-level military commanders and on climate change, amid an uproar over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry said it was also suspending exchanges with Washington to fight cross-border crime and drug trafficking, all moves Washington called “irresponsible.”
Furious as Pelosi became the highest-ranking US visitor in 25 years to the self-governing island that Beijing considers its territory, China on Thursday launched military drills in the seas and skies around Taiwan. The live-fire drills, the largest China has ever conducted across the Taiwan Strait, are scheduled to continue through Sunday noon.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Friday it deployed jets to repel Chinese planes it said had entered the island’s air defense zone, some of which crossed the Taiwan Strait centerline, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides.
A total of 68 Chinese military aircraft and 13 naval vessels have been conducting missions in the strait, the ministry said.
China’s Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement it held air and sea drills in northern, southwestern and eastern Taiwan on Friday “to test the troops’ joint combat capabilities.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has repeatedly made it clear to Beijing that it does not seek a crisis over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week during a congressional tour of Asia.
“There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalating military response,” he told a news conference on the sidelines of regional ASEAN meetings in Cambodia, adding, “Now they have taken dangerous acts to a new level.”
Blinken stressed that the US would not take any action to provoke a crisis, but would continue to support regional allies and conduct normal air and sea transit across the Taiwan Strait.
“We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Chinese officials did not respond to calls from senior Pentagon officials this week, but the move was seen as China showing displeasure with the Pelosi trip, rather than the channel between senior defense officials including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a media briefing after the ASEAN meetings, “I heard that US Secretary of State Blinken held his press conference and spread some misinformation and didn’t speak truthfully.”
“We want to warn the US: don’t act hastily, don’t create a bigger crisis,” Wang said.
Jing Quan, a senior official at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, echoed this, saying in a briefing, “The only way out of this crisis is for the US side to take immediate action to correct its mistakes and mitigate the severe impact of.” Eliminate Pelosi’s visit.”
He said Washington should “avoid pushing China-US relations down the dangerous path of conflict and confrontation.”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby countered that China’s move to suspend some communications channels was “fundamentally irresponsible.”
“There is nothing for the US to correct here. The Chinese can go a long way in defusing tensions simply by stopping these provocative military exercises and ending the rhetoric,” Kirby told reporters.
China has not mentioned a break in military talks at the highest levels, including with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley. Though these conversations were infrequent, officials said they are important in the event of an emergency or accident.
Kirby said it is not uncharacteristic for China to halt military talks at times of tension, but that “not all channels” have been cut between the two countries’ military leaders.
The Pentagon said China overreacted and Washington is still open to building crisis communication mechanisms.
“Part of this overreaction is severely curtailing its defense commitments when every responsible state would realize we need them most now,” said acting Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale.
Beijing separately announced it would impose sanctions on Pelosi personally and her immediate family in response to her “vicious” and “provocative” actions.
At a press conference in Japan after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Pelosi said her trip to Asia was “not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region.”
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Friday the island’s military dispatched planes and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor ships and planes briefly crossing the Taiwan Strait centerline.
China fired multiple missiles into waters around Taiwan on Thursday.
The Japanese Defense Ministry, which monitors the exercises, first reported that up to four of the missiles flew over Taiwan’s capital, in an unprecedented manner. It also said five out of nine rockets fired at its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone, also a first, prompting a diplomatic protest from Tokyo.
Taiwan’s defense ministry later said the missiles were high in the atmosphere and posed no threat.
Some Taipei residents, including Mayor Ko Wen-je, criticized the government for not sounding a missile alert, but a security expert said it could have been done to avoid creating panic and playing into China’s hands.
“It has counteracted the effects of the Chinese Communist Party’s psychological warfare,” said Mei Fu-shin, a US-based analyst.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen urged residents not to panic, saying in a Facebook post, “Please rest assured, keep calm and live as usual.”
Bonnie Glaser, a Washington-based Asia security specialist at the US’s German Marshall Fund, said China may be rehearsing a blockade “to demonstrate it can blockade Taiwan’s ports and airports and prevent shipments.”
Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s communists seized power in Beijing after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war, prompting the KMT-led government to resort to the withdraw island.
Beijing has said its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and that it reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under Chinese control if necessary.