Beijing warns America will ‘pay price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests’ – as four US warships lie off island’s east coast
- US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening amid fury from China
- China warned the US will ‘pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests’ with visit
- Chilling footage appears to show Chinese amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait
- Beijing’s warplanes have been flying very close to the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in a ‘provocative’ move
- Four US warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, are positioned in waters east of Taiwan
By RACHAEL BUNYAN FOR MAILONLINE and REUTERS
PUBLISHED: 13:34 AEST, 2 August 2022 | UPDATED: 02:12 AEST, 3 August 2022
A furious Beijing today warned US politicians they will ‘come to no good end’ if they ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan as video emerged purportedly showing tanks lined up on beaches opposite the island.
Chilling footage shared on Chinese social network Weibo appears to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait. Further footage shows military equipment on the move in the city of Xiamen.
The unverified videos emerged amid soaring tensions between China and US with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touching down in Taipei today. Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997.
Her jet left the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24. The site crashed earlier after 300,000 people tried to chart Pelosi’s journey.
Beijing had earlier warned that the United States will ‘pay the price’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan while Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that those U.S. politicians who ‘play with fire’ on the Taiwan issue will ‘come to no good end’.
Moscow also weighed in and accused the US of ‘destabilizing’ the world by allowing Pelosi to travel to Taiwan, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warning that such a visit would be ‘extremely provocative’.
Amid the intensifying warnings from China over Pelosi’s visit, four US warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, were positioned in waters east of Taiwan on ‘routine’ deployments.
The carrier USS Ronald Reagan had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a US Navy official confirmed on Tuesday. The Japanese-based Reagan is operating with a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.
The US Navy official said the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also in the area as part of a deployment to the region that started in early May from its home port of San Diego.
Taipei has vowed to defend itself and dispatch its military forces in reaction to ‘enemy threats’ as risk of Beijing attacking Taiwan grows.
Taiwan has also made strengthening its defenses a priority, with regular military and civil defense drills, including designating air-raid shelters where civilians can take cover if Beijing launches missiles at the democratic island.
Self-governed Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion by authoritarian China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary. Beijing tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with it.
Videos circulating on WeChat show armoured vehicles in Xiamen, China
Nancy Pelosi has arrived for a controversial visit to Taiwan. She disembarked wearing a pink pants suit and was greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu
Chilling footage shared on Chinese social network Weibo appears to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait
Chilling footage shared on Chinese social network Weibo appears to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait
Further footage shows military equipment on the move in the Chinese city of Xiamen
The Taipei 101 skyscraper is illuminated with ‘Taiwan loves US’ ahead of the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday
Armoured vehicles in Chinese city of Xiamen amid Pelosi visit
Pelosi’s jet left the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24. The site later crashed after 300,000 people tried to chart Pelosi’s journey.
Pelosi’s visit has sparked heightened tensions between Taiwan and China – and in response to new fears that Beijing could attack Taipei, the democratic island is preparing its air-raid shelters. Pictured: People demonstrate taking shelter with their hands covering their eyes and ears while keeping their mouth open, during a drill at a basement parking lot that will be used as an air-raid shelter in the event of an attack, in Taipei, on July 22
It comes as comes as signs emerge of military activity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait ahead of Pelosi’s visit.
In a ‘provocative’ move, several Chinese warplanes flew close to the median line dividing the Taiwan strait on Tuesday. Meanwhile, several Chinese warships had remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday, a source briefed on the matter said.
A source said both Chinese warships and aircraft ‘squeezed’ the median line on Tuesday morning, an unusual move the person described as ‘very provocative.’
The person said the Chinese aircraft repeatedly conducted tactical moves of briefly ‘touching’ the median line and circling back to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, while Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby.
Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.
Video shared by China showed off their military as soldiers in the footage vowed to fight to the death to defend their ‘motherland’.
‘We are fully prepared for any eventuality. Fight upon order, bury every intruder, and move toward joint and successful operations,’ the troops said, reports Chinese state media outlet The Global Times.
‘We are PLA soldiers, we swear to defend the motherland to the death.’
Taipei residents split as Nancy Pelosi visit looms
Taiwan has vowed to defend itself and has made strengthening its defenses a priority, with regular military and civil defense drills.
The preparations include designating shelters where people can take cover if Chinese missiles start flying in, not in purpose-built bunkers but in underground spaces like basement car parks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centers.
The capital of Taipei has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate some 12 million people, more than four times its population.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it has a full grasp of military activities near Taiwan and will appropriately dispatch forces in reaction to ‘enemy threats.’
China’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, unspecified hackers launched a cyberattack on the Taiwanese Presidential Office’s website, making it temporarily unavailable Tuesday evening. The Presidential Office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, which overwhelmed it with traffic.
‘China thinks by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan will be be intimidated. But they are wrong,’ Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the attack.
Russian foreign minister spokesperson talks Pelosi Taiwan visit
People demonstrate taking shelter with their hands covering their eyes and ears while keeping their mouth open, during a drill at a basement parking lot that will be used as an air-raid shelter in the event of an attack, in Taipei, Taiwan
An instructor shows participants how to transport an injured person with everyday objects during a first aid training in Taipei, Taiwan on July 23
Tourists pose for photos at an underground tunnel that will be used as an air-raid shelter in the event of an attack, beneath the Grand Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan
Wu Enoch, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party and an organizer of first aid trainings, speaks at the end of a course in Taipei, Taiwan
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) and her counterpart, Azhar Azizan Harun (right), before a meeting at the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday
Malaysia’s Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, Azhar Azizan Harun (front, 4R), posing with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (front, 4L) and officials before a meeting at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Taipei 101 skyscraper is illuminated ahead of the expected visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, on 2 August
Moscow accuses US of ‘destabilization’ over Pelosi visit to Taiwan
Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Washington of destabilizing the world after the potential visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan sparked rage in Moscow’s ally Beijing.
‘Washington is bringing destabilization to the world. Not a single resolved conflict in recent decades, but many provoked ones,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media.
Faced with unprecedented sanctions and international isolation over its military campaign in pro-Western Ukraine, Russia has sought closer ties with China and expressed solidarity with Beijing over Taiwan.
China considers Taiwan its territory and has indicated through repeated warnings that it would view a visit by Pelosi as a major provocation.
American officials often make discreet visits to Taiwan to show support, but Pelosi – who is currently on a tour of several Asian countries – would be a higher-profile visitor than any in recent history.
Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of being seized by China.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has heightened fears that Beijing might similarly follow through on threats to annex its much smaller and outgunned neighbour.
In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armored vehicles on the move on Tuesday and posted pictures online.
Chinese social media was abuzz with both trepidation about potential conflict and patriotic fervor over the prospect of unification with Taiwan, and the topic of Pelosi’s visit was the top-trending item on the Twitter-like Weibo.
China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi going to Taiwan, which it claims as its own, and the US said on Monday that it would not be intimidated by Chinese ‘sabre rattling’ over the visit.
One person familiar with Pelosi’s itinerary said most of her planned meetings, including with President Tsai Ing-wen, were scheduled for Wednesday, and that it was possible her delegation would only arrive in Taiwan early on Wednesday.
‘Everything is uncertain,’ the person said.
Pelosi was visiting Malaysia on Tuesday, having begun her Asia tour in Singapore on Monday. Her office said she will also go to South Korea and Japan, but made no mention of a Taiwan visit.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans, but the White House – which would not confirm the trip – said she had the right to go.
Beijing’s responses could include firing missiles near Taiwan, large-scale air or naval activities, or further ‘spurious legal claims’ such as China’s assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Monday.
‘We will not take the bait or engage in sabre rattling. At the same time, we will not be intimidated,’ Kirby said.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Tuesday strongly warned the United States against provoking China with Pelosi’s trip saying it will raise tensions to a new dangerous level.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that such a visit would be ‘extremely provocative,’ adding that it would ‘exacerbate the situation in the region and fuel tensions.’
Speaking in a call with reporters, Peskov reaffirmed Russia’s ‘absolute solidarity’ with China, noting that the issue of Taiwan is very sensitive for Beijing.
‘Instead of dealing with this sensitivity with respect, the U.S. has regrettably chosen the path of confrontation,’ he added. ‘It will bring no good, we can only express regret.’
Peskov’s comments reflected close ties between Moscow and Beijing, which have grown stronger since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24. China has pointedly refused to criticize Russia’s action, blaming the U.S. and NATO for provoking Moscow, and has blasted punishing sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Russia and China have held a series of joint war games in recent years, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. Last year, Russian troops for the first time deployed to Chinese territory for joint maneuvers.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that such a prospect can’t be ruled out. He also has noted that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly bolster its defense capability.
Meanwhile, four sources said Pelosi was scheduled to meet a small group of activists who are outspoken about China’s human rights record in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting is likely to take place at the National Human Rights Museum at New Taipei City, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Military police officers get into position for a drill on how to guide citizens to safety in the event of an attack, in Taipei, Taiwan, on July 22
Self-governed Taiwan’s 23 million people live under the constant threat of invasion by authoritarian China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary
Amid the intensifying warnings from China over Pelosi’s visit, four US ships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (file photo), were positioned in waters east of Taiwan on ‘routine’ deployments
Why China set its sights on Taiwan
China and Taiwan have a long-standing dispute over the island’s sovereignty.
China considers Taiwan as a part of its territory, more precisely a province, but many Taiwanese want the island to be independent.
From 1683 to 1895, Taiwan was ruled by China’s Qing dynasty. After Japan claimed its victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing government forced to cede Taiwan to Japan.
The island was under the Republic of China’s ruling after World War II, with the consent of its allies the US and UK.
The leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan in 1949 and established his government after losing the Civil War to the Communist Party and its leader Mao Zedong.
Chiang’s son continued to rule Taiwan after his father and began democratising Taiwan.
In 1980, China put forward a formula called ‘one country, two systems’, under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification. Taiwan rejected the offer.
Taiwan today, with its own constitution and democratically-elected leaders, is widely accepted in the West as an independent state. But its political status remains unclear.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s citizens are preparing their air-raid shelters amid fears China could attack.
Harmony Wu, 18, was surprised to learn that an underground shopping concourse where she and other youngsters were recently rehearsing some dance moves would be turned into an air-raid shelter in the event of war. But she said she could understand why.
‘Having shelter is very necessary. We don’t know when a war might come and they are to keep us safe,’ Wu said at the venue near a Taipei subway station.
‘War is brutal. We’ve never experienced it so we aren’t prepared,’ she said.
Taipei officials have been updating their database of designated shelters, putting their whereabouts on a smartphone app and launching a social media and poster campaign to make sure people know how to find their closest one.
Shelter entrances are marked with a yellow label, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, with the maximum number of people it can take.
A senior official in the city office in charge of the shelters said events in Europe had brought a renewed sense of urgency.
‘Look at the war in Ukraine,’ Abercrombie Yang, a director of the Building Administration Office, told Reuters.
‘There’s no guarantee that the innocent public won’t get hit,’ he said, adding that that was why the public had to be informed.
‘All citizens should have crisis awareness … We need the shelters in the event of an attack by the Chinese communists.’
Last month, Taiwan held a comprehensive air-raid exercise across the island for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular drills.
Among the instructions citizens got in case of incoming missiles was to get down in their basement parking lots with their hands covering their eyes and ears while keeping their mouths open – to minimize the impact of blast waves.
Some civil defense advocates say more needs to be done.
Authorities are required by law to keep the shelters clean and open but they don’t have to be stocked with supplies like food and water.
Researchers in parliament called in June for shelters to be provided with emergency supplies.
Wu Enoch of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party says the public must prepare survival kits to take with them when they seek shelter.
‘What’s important is what you bring with you, for people to stay there for a long period of time,’ Wu said, citing medical supplies and even tools to build a makeshift toilet.
After decade of saber-rattling across the Taiwan Strait separating the democratic island from China, many Taiwan people appear resigned to living with the threat of a Chinese invasion.
‘I’m not stressed. I carry on with my life as usual. When it happens, it happens,’ said Teresa Chang, 17, who was also going through her paces at the underground dance practice.
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said it would be ‘a gross interference in China’s internal affairs’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan, and warned that ‘the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by.’
Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: ‘If she dares to go, then let us wait and see.’
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (L) shakes hands with Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore to kick off her tour of Asia and the Indo-Pacific
China views visits by US officials to Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp in the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
A visit by Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the US presidency and a long-time critic of China, would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing.
The White House has dismissed China’s rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate.
Kirby said that nothing about Pelosi’s possible trip changed US policy toward Taiwan, and that Beijing was well aware the division of powers within the US government meant Pelosi would make her own decisions about the visit.
‘The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan,’ he told the White House briefing.
Without directly saying Pelosi will make a stop on the self-governing island that Beijing sees as its own territory, Kirby warned – repeatedly – if she did go, there was no reason to escalate any military action.
‘We’re going to watch this very, very closely,’ Kirby said, and asked reporters what the ‘drama’ of her trip is – following 10 days of threats from Beijing after the prospect of her visit first surfaced.
‘I don’t know about the drama you’re claiming exists. It’s quite the contrary here,’ he told reporters.
White House says Pelosi has a right to visit Taiwan
China’s People’s Liberation Army posted a video on WeChat showing missiles being launched, hours after reports of the visit surfaced
The video included missile strikes and simulated what an invasion may look like. Taiwan has also canceled leave for some soldiers in case of military action
Chinese state media personality Hu Xijin also issued a grim message to the top Democrat: ‘Let her go to Taiwan. But pray before departure: wish herself a safe journey and wish herself not be defined by history as a sinner who starts a spiral of escalation process expanding military frictions to a large-scale war in the Taiwan Strait’
China shares video of military drills ahead of Pelosi’s visit