In the latest sign indicating that US-China ties have further deteriorated, it is reported that Beijing’s top military officials have not returned multiple calls from their American counterparts this week as the crisis over the Taiwan issue escalated with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unannounced visit to Taipei. Citing three people familiar with US attempts, Politico reported that China is “ghosting” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley’s attempts to seek contact.
The reported failed attempts of Washington came as China continued to launch ballistic missiles encircling Taiwan and even positioned warships, and aircraft as part of its large-scale military drills near the self-ruled democratic island. According to the report, both officials and experts have termed China’s silence as a “shortsighted and reckless move” which increases the risk of escalation amid an already tense situation in the region.
The US media outlet quoted ex-top Pentagon official for Asia policy, Randy Schriver as saying, “If the [Chinese military] is operating more aggressively, and in closer proximity to U.S. forces with greater frequency, we’d need these mechanisms even more to promote a safe operating environment”.
Since Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday defying repeated harsh warnings by China, Beijing not only decried the move as ‘provocative’ but pledged ‘unprecedented’ consequences. While the US House Speaker concluded her trip within 18 hours, China was swift in introducing a range of so-called countermeasures to attack US and Taiwan including pulling out of key talks with Washington.
According to Politico, the US military officials have sought “to maintain open lines of communication even with potential adversaries such as China to prevent accidents and other miscalculations that could turn into a full-blown conflict”. However, the last call that Milley had with his Chinese counterpart, Chief of the Joint Staff Gen. Li Zuocheng was on July 17, the Pentagon said.
Li and Milley spoke last month through a secure video teleconference about the need to maintain open lines of communications, as per the publicly available readout of the call. Meanwhile, the US Defence Secretary met China’s Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe in June on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. It is to mention here that US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping also held a high-stakes video call on July 28.
According to the Biden-Xi call readout by the White House, “The call was a part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC and responsibly manage our differences and work together where our interests align.”
US-China confrontation over Pelosi’s visit
The US and China stood in direct confrontation amid deteriorated ties after Pelosi became the first US House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years and upheld the island’s sovereignty and security. In response, Beijing slammed the US for undermining the ‘One China’ policy and announced large-scale military drills encircling Taiwan as part of its “unprecedented” response.
These drills, including all branches of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), on Friday, crossed the island for the first time and were started on Thursday after Pelosi left the island in less than two days. China not only imposed trade restrictions on Taiwan but also said that it would withdraw from a range of talks and cooperation agreements with the United States over Pelosi’s visit. Beijing continued its massive military drills for the third day on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a massive claim, Taiwan has accused China’s military of ‘simulating’ an attack on its main island on Saturday as Beijing continued its retaliatory military drills over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry floated a major claim saying, “Multiple PLA craft were detected around Taiwan Strait, some have crossed the median line. Possible simulated attack against HVA. ROC Armed Forces have utilized alert broadcast, aircraft in CAP, patrolling naval vessels, and land-based missile systems in response to this situation.”