China announced on Friday it was halting dialogue with the United States in a number of areas, including between theater-level military commanders and on climate change, in a furore over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry said it was also suspending exchanges with Washington on countering cross-border crime and drug trafficking, all moves Washington called “irresponsible.”
Enraged when Pelosi became the highest-level U.S. visitor in 25 years to the self-governed island that Beijing regards as its territory, China launched military drills in the seas and skies around Taiwan on Thursday. The live-fire drills, the largest ever conducted by China in the Taiwan Strait, are scheduled to continue until noon on Sunday.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Friday it scrambled jets to warn away Chinese aircraft that it said entered the island’s air defence zone, some of which crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides.
A total of 68 Chinese military aircraft and 13 navy ships had conducted missions in the strait, the ministry said.
China’s Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement it conducted air and sea drills to the north, southwest and east of Taiwan on Friday “to test the troops’ joint combat capabilities.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has repeatedly made clear to Beijing 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 escalatory military response,” he told a news conference on the sidelines of ASEAN regional meetings in Cambodia, adding, “Now, they’ve taken dangerous acts to a new level”.
Blinken emphasised that the United States would not take actions to provoke a crisis, but it would continue to support regional allies and conduct standard air and maritime transit through the Taiwan Strait.
“We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said.
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Chinese officials had not responded to calls made by senior Pentagon officials this week, but the move was seen as China showing displeasure over the Pelosi trip rather than severing the channel between senior defense officials including U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told a media briefing after the ASEAN meetings: “I heard that U.S. Secretary of State Blinken held his news conference and spread some misinformation and was not speaking truthfully.”
“We wish to issue a warning to the United States: Do not act rashly, do not create a greater crisis,” Wang said.
Jing Quan, a senior Chinese Embassy official in Washington, echoed that, telling a briefing: “The only way out of this crisis is that the U.S. side must take measures immediately to rectify its mistakes and eliminate the grave impact of Pelosi’s visit.”
He said Washington should “avoid pushing China-U.S. relations down the dangerous track of conflict and confrontation”.