EU says ‘no justification’ for Chinese drills as US warns against escalation

(Update: adds Blinken remarks, alters lede, headline)

Phnom Penh, Aug 4 (EFE).- European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Thursday China’s “aggressive” military exercises in the Taiwan Strait following United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island this week were unjustified, as the US’ top diplomat cautioned against any actions that would further ramp up soaring tensions.

Borrell, who arrived in Cambodia Wednesday night for the ministerial meeting between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said on Twitter that “there is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.”

“It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally,” the head of European diplomacy said, urging the conflicting parties to “remain calm, maintain control and act transparently.”

China’s army began live fire military exercises on Thursday around Taiwan, which have effectively caused “a sea and air blockade” of the island, according to the Taiwanese Defense Ministry.

The maneuvers, which started a day after Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taipei, include the closure of maritime and air space in six areas around the island and have affected 18 international air routes on the island. More than 900 flights have been forced to change their routes.

The tensions in Taiwan were one of the main issues in a meeting between Borrell and US State Secretary Antony Blinken in Phnom Penh on Thursday, in which they also repeated their condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and discussed regional issues including the crisis in Myanmar.

In his opening remarks to ASEAN delegates, the US’ top diplomat said Washington opposes “any unilateral efforts to change the status quo, especially by force” and that “nothing has changed” about their position.

Blinken warned that escalation “could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests, including ASEAN members, and China.”

Taiwan, with whom the US does not maintain official relations, is one of the main points of contention between China and the US. Washington is the main supplier of weapons to the island and would be its greatest military ally if a conflict broke out.

Under the so-called ‘One China’ principle, Beijing views Taiwan – which has been self-governed since Kuomintang nationalists retreated there in 1949 after losing the civil war – as a breakaway province and claims sovereignty over the island. EFE


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