Where China plans to hold military exercises around Taiwan

While the focus was on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the real potential for military confrontation will come after her departure.

The Chinese military said it would conduct a series of live-fire exercises starting Thursday, the day after she left. A Chinese state media report offered the coordinates of five sections of the sea surrounding Taiwan, three of which intersect with areas that Taiwan says are part of its territorial waters.

The exercise, if continued, will be a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline. And they strike at the core of years of disagreement in which China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-governing island with its own democratically elected government and military.

A New York Times map of the planned exercise shows that in some locations it will take place within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coastline, far beyond the areas targeted by previous live-fire exercises and in areas Taiwan defines as its territorial waters. Two of the regions where the Chinese military will fire weapons, likely rockets and artillery, are inside what Taiwan calls its maritime border. A total of five zones surround the island and mark a clear escalation from previous Chinese exercises.

In its warning, the Chinese military urged all boats and aircraft to avoid the areas they identified for three days. For Taiwan and the United States military, the key question will be whether they will obey orders or test China’s determination to test by sending boats and aircraft into these areas.

The confrontation is reminiscent of the 1995 and 1996 incident, called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. At the time, China was firing live ammunition and rockets into the waters around Taiwan to express its anger at then Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui’s trip to the United States. The United States then sent two aircraft carrier groups to the area, and one passed through the Taiwan Strait.

The new live-fire exercise will take place in areas closer to the island than in 1995 and 1996, leaving Taiwan and the United States a puzzle. If China takes action, it must decide whether to offer a show of force similar to the previous crisis.

A lot has changed since then. China’s military has grown stronger and bolder under Xi Jinping. This summer, Chinese officials also said emphatically that no part of the Taiwan Strait could be considered international waters, meaning they could move to intercept and block US warships passing through the area, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. .

China has taken little time to make it clear that it is serious. On Wednesday, its state broadcasting company released footage from a preparatory exercise in the area, showing Chinese troops in the north, southwest, and southeast of Taiwan to practice sea and land attacks, aerial combat, and “joint deterrence.”

Also on Wednesday, the Taiwanese military attempted to hold the line, signaling they did not want the situation to escalate. Calling the exercise a blockade, the government said it had crossed Taiwan’s territorial waters and endangered international waterways and regional security.

“We strongly defend national sovereignty and will oppose any aggression against national sovereignty,” the major said. Gene. Sun Li-fang, a spokesman for the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, responded to the exercise.

“We will increase our vigilance with a rational attitude that will not escalate conflicts,” he added.