It is now obvious that Beijing would not be content with only expressing its ire over Nancy Pelosi’s travel to Taiwan through words or even by imposing targeted restrictions on Taiwanese businesses.
This might develop into a major issue with the declaration of six sizable exclusion zones around Taiwan beginning on Thursday and extending for four days.
In 1996, the last time there was a “Taiwan Straits Crisis,” Beijing took the same action. The exclusion zones, however, were all located outside Taiwan’s territorial waters at that point.
Three of the six zones this time around cross Taiwan’s 12-mile boundary. That is unheard of.
The action, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry, amounts to an air and sea blockade of the island and violates UN agreements.
It would be an invasion of Taiwan territory if China sent ships or planes into such regions. Due to this, Taiwan might feel obligated to protect its own territorial waters, raising the stakes significantly.
The USS Ronald Reagan carrier battle group is already steaming close by in the Philippine Sea as the US Navy keeps a careful eye on all that is happening.
To signal that the US was prepared to intervene if China attacked the island, then-US President Bill Clinton in 1996 ordered the movement of two carrier battle groups close to Taiwan.
But the military balance today is very different from 1996. China has its own carrier battle groups, both of which are reported to be heading towards the Taiwan Strait.
How has China responded so far?
Beijing has made no secret of its fury at US Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and its foreign minister says the visit violates China’s sovereignty.
Here is what China has done since it became apparent she was heading to the island:
- Just 16 minutes after Pelosi touched down on Tuesday night, China announced it would hold days-long military drills – which would include firing “long-range ammunition” – in the waters around Taiwan
- Beijing said those drills would begin on Thursday and has demanded foreign ships and aircraft not enter the zone during that period. The seas around Taiwan are busy shipping routes. Taiwan says China’s actions amount to a blockade in breach of international law
- China has also retaliated with economic blows – blocking the trade of several key products between Taiwan and the mainland, and banning more than 100 Taiwanese food businesses
- It also blacklisted two Taiwan organisations it said were linked to the independence movement
- Beijing has also called in the US Ambassador to China
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