The United States expects China to ramp up its military, diplomatic and economic “coercion” of Taiwan, its top envoy in East Asia said Thursday, after Beijing’s unprecedented drills around the island it claims as its own.
The Chinese military has staged days of air and sea exercises in the Taiwan Strait after visits by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to the self-ruled island.
Washington on Thursday announced plans for formal trade talks with Taiwan by the autumn in a show of support for the democracy in response to China’s drills, despite not holding official ties with the government in Taipei.
“While our policy has not changed, what has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion,” Washington’s top envoy for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, told reporters on a teleconference call.
“These actions are part of an intensified pressure campaign… to intimidate and coerce Taiwan and undermine its resilience,” he said.
Washington believes the drive to press the island’s government will carry on in the coming “weeks and months”, he added.
Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the democratically ruled island as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary.
China lashes out at any diplomatic action that recognises Taiwan as a sovereign nation and has imposed symbolic sanctions on its economy.
China’s “words and actions are deeply destabilising. They risk miscalculation and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” Kritenbrink said.
On Wednesday Taiwan displayed its most advanced fighter jet in a rare nighttime demonstration in the wake of China’s drills.
Kritenbrink joined Taipei in accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for the exercises.
The envoy said Washington would respond with “calm, but resolute steps” to keep the Taiwan Strait open and peaceful.
His comments come after a top US naval commander said this week that Washington and its allies must contest China’s ballistic missile fire over Taiwan, which he called a “gorilla in the room”.
China’s exercises included firing multiple ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan — some of the world’s busiest shipping routes — and it was the first time China has taken such a step since the mid-1990s.