US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on a USAF aircraft on 02 August 2022 despite China’s warnings. Around 40 US jets escorted the aircraft till its arrival. The visit was seen as a sign of support for Taiwan, although China threatened retaliation over the visit.
In response to Pelosi’s visit, China, announcing a series of sanctions against Taiwan in retaliation, put its army on alert and kept its fighter jets on high readiness. It also deployed amphibious forces on the Fujian coast, which is the closest location to Taiwan. Among these measures, the most significant move of China was the promulgation of exercise areas surrounding the whole island.
Tha PLAN is set to launch an unprecedented naval exercise that will effectively blockade Taiwan. As part of the exercise, China has announced five areas for training activities that overlap Taiwan’s territorial waters and plans to conduct training activities including live-firing drills. According to reports based on Chinese state sources, Beijing considers these military exercises necessary in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit to the island of Taiwan, while preserving its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Taiwanese government also showed reaction to China’s planned military exercise, and defined it as a violation of Taiwan’s sovereignty and a breach of international law, as the designated areas either encroach on Taiwan’s territorial waters or are very close to them.
“China’s “irrational” actions would “jeopardize the safety of international waterways, challenge international order, break the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and endanger regional security.”
Sun Li-fang (孫立方), Taiwan’s Defence Ministry spokesman
According to Pentagon, the Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and USS Tripoli are in the region for normal deployment. Meanwhile, PLAN aircraft carriers Liaoning (16) and Shandong (17) left their homeports for the exercise purposes.
Tso Juei Hsu, a Taiwan-based military researcher and regular correspondent of Naval News, pointed out Taiwan MoD’s official tweet stating Taiwan’s military will monitor Chinese activities closely, saying “I believe that military aircrafts and warships will be dispatched to monitor the activities of Chinese forces.” In this case, dangerous manoeuvres may occur between the two forces.
Hsu also states that while a similar escalation was occured between two states in 1996, this time Chine poses higher threat.
“China poses a greater threat to Taiwan this time because some of the exercises take place in Taiwanese territorial waters.”
Tso Juei Hsu, Taiwan-based military researcher
The Taiwanese state news agency CNA has produced an infographic comparing Chinese exercises in 1996 with escalations in 2022.
Hsu also gives an assessment of China’s approach to this crisis, saying, “Capturing small Taiwanese islands may sound good for China in the short term, but it’s likely to become political suicide for any incumbent Chinese leader. Most people on these islands (e.g. Kinmen and Matsu) see themselves as Chinese and not Taiwanese, they aren’t against annexation but against Taiwan independence.“
Contrary to majority of the analysts, Hsu reveals that a naval blockade would not be a beneficial solution for China.
“Such hostile activities are considered “other than peaceful means” under the US Taiwan Relations Act, which would result in intervention by the US or the US-Japan alliance.”