A top US military commander said Tuesday that the US must “contest” China’s missile launches over Taiwan that were carried out in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island.
“It’s very important that we contest this type of thing. I know that the gorilla in the room is launching missiles over Taiwan,” Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, told reporters in Singapore.
China’s recent exercises marked the first time they fired missiles over the island of Taiwan. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) took other unprecedented steps over Pelosi’s visit, and tensions could increase further as the US is planning to conduct its own drills in the region.
Thomas’ Seventh Fleet, which is based in Japan, is expected to send ships and planes into the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks. The Seventh Fleet often sends destroyers through the Strait and near Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea, but a larger show of force is expected in the wake of China’s drills.
Some of the military exercises China held will now become routine as a consequence of Pelosi’s visit. Thomas said the US couldn’t allow the drills to “become the new norm,” but it’s clear that more US activity in the region will just result in more Chinese military exercises.
Speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang urged the US to show restraint. “We have noted what the US military has said about the US military exercises and navigation [in the Taiwan Strait], but I call on the US to refrain and exercise restraint and not do anything to escalate tensions,” he said.