Chinese and Taiwanese warships played high-seas “cat and mouse” on Sunday, hours before the scheduled end of four days of unprecedented Chinese military exercises launched in reaction to a visit to Taiwan by the U.S. house speaker.
Nancy Pelosi’s visit last week to the self-ruled island infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over the island’s capital for the first time and the cutting of communication links with the United States.
Some 10 warships each from China and Taiwan sailed at close quarters in the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
As Chinese forces “pressed” the line, as they did on Saturday, the Taiwan side stayed close to monitor and, where possible, deny the Chinese the ability to cross.
“The two sides are showing restraint, the person said, describing the manoeuvres as high seas “cat and mouse”.
“One side tries to cross, and the other stands in the way and forces them to a more disadvantaged position and eventually return to the other side.”
Taiwan said its shore-based anti-ship missiles and its Patriot surface -to-air-missiles were on stand-by.
The Chinese exercises, centred on six locations around the island, began on Thursday and are scheduled to last until midday on Sunday. China’s military said on Saturday it was conducting sea and air joint exercises north, southwest and east of Taiwan with a focus on testing land-strike and sea-assault capabilities.
he United States called the exercises an escalation.
“These activities are a significant escalation in China’s efforts to change the status quo. They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation,” a White House spokesperson said.
“They are also at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is what the world expects.”
China halted communication through various channels with the United States as part of its response to Pelosi’s visit, including between military theatre commands and on climate change.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of taking “irresponsible” steps and moving away from prioritising peaceful resolution towards the use of force.
Taiwan’s military on Saturday said the Chinese ships and planes taking part in the drills were conducting a simulated attack on the island that China claims as its territory.
Taiwan’s defence ministry later said its forces scrambled jets to warn away 20 Chinese aircraft, including 14 that crossed the median line. It also detected 14 Chinese ships conducting activity around the Taiwan Strait.
The ministry released a photograph showing Taiwanese sailors closely watching a nearby Chinese vessel.
Taiwan’s forces on Friday fired flares to warn away drones flying over its Kinmen islands and unidentified aircraft flying over its Matsu islands. Both island groups are close to China’s coast.