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Taiwan defense ministry blasts China's live-fire zones as 'blockade'

MND 'strongly condemns' live-fire exercises as 'tantamount to naval and air blockade of Taiwan'

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Map comparing China's live-fire drills in 1996 and 2022. (Twitter, Duan Dong image)

Map comparing China's live-fire drills in 1996 and 2022. (Twitter, Duan Dong image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Wednesday (Aug. 3) accused China of trying to set up a blockade around Taiwan with the unprecedented live-fire drills it is running in six zones around the country this week.

At 10:59 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 2), just 15 minutes after Nancy Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan, Chinese state-run mouthpiece the Global Times released an announcement from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) saying it would hold "important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills" in six areas around Taiwan proper from Aug. 4 to Aug. 7. The PLA has marked vast swaths of waters off the coast of Taiwan, including areas to the northwest, north, northeast, east, southwest, and southeast of the country.

The zones to the north, northeast, and southwest of the country appear particularly close to territorial waters. As can be seen from a map created by Vietnamese journalist Duan Dong, the northern zone comes within 12 nautical miles of the north coast of Taiwan, the northeast sector comes within 10 nautical miles of northeast Taiwan, and the southern area is a mere 9 nautical miles from southern Taiwan, far closer than the live-fire drills seen during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis from 1995-1996.

During an online press conference on Wednesday, MND spokesman Sun Li-fang (孫立方) emphasized that some areas of the PLA's live-fire exercises encroach on Taiwan's territorial waters and endanger international waterways. Sun vowed that the military will "resolutely defend national sovereignty, has absolute ability and confidence, shoulders the responsibility of guarding the territory, and will counter any actions that violate national sovereignty."

Sun said by using joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance methods, the armed forces are fully aware of the dynamics at sea and in the air. He said that the military is adhering to the principle of "prepare for war, but do not seek it" while at the same time closely monitoring developments in the Taiwan Strait to safeguard national sovereignty and national security.

He stated that China's "hegemonic mentality of using force to resolve differences and undermine regional peace and stability not only does not help its international image, but also hurts the feelings of the people on both sides of the strait."

Yu Chian-chang (于健昌), an MND official in charge of law affairs, denounced China's exercises as "tantamount to a naval and air blockade of Taiwan." Yu said that the drills encompass Taiwan's territory and territorial waters, "seriously infringing on its sovereignty, and violates the United Nations Convention on the Seas and other international laws, and we strongly condemn them."

Taiwan defense ministry blasts China's live-fire zones as 'blockade'
Map compares 1996 drills in black, with 2022 drills in red. (Twitter, Duan Dong image)