US holds joint military drills on Sumatra Island as China threats escalate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared to be calling the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s threatening bluff Tuesday when she visited Taiwan, but while she promoted “shared interests” in the region, the PLA furthered their aggression by surrounding the island nation.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has seemingly left China looking for any excuse to do the same to Taiwan and ongoing military actions in the region have primed the Indo-Pacific to go off with a single misstep. Like poking a hornet’s nest, when Pelosi touched down in Taiwan, the mainland’s tough talk had backed them into a corner where their choices were to admit there was never a serious threat to the speaker or up the ante.

They chose the latter.

No sooner had the congressional delegation landed, according to CNN, Col. Shi Yi, spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command was announcing six days of military exercises, including live-fire drills, in and around the Taiwan strait. A map of their intended drills was even published on social media showing the encroachment on the sovereign nation’s territory.

“This action is a solemn deterrent against the recent major escalation of the negative actions of the United States on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces seeking ‘independence,'” the PLA spokesman claimed.

However, when meeting with Pelosi, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen declared, “Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will… continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.”

So too did the speaker stand evidently unintimidated by the two days of drills that would go on while she remained in Taiwan and resume later in the week.

“In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom,” she wrote as part of an op-ed that was featured in The Washington Post.

While meeting with Taiwan’s president she stated unequivocally, “Our discussions with Taiwan’s leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

As it happened, our partnership in the region was already being reaffirmed this week as the AP reported on the 13th annual “Super Garuda Shield” joint exercise with the U.S. and Indonesian militaries that began Aug. 1 and continues through Aug. 14.

Taking place on Sumatra Island and the Riau islands in Indonesia, the drills that began in 2009 featured participation from Australia, Japan and Singapore for the first time and comprise more than 5,000 troops from those nations, Indonesia and the U.S. which provided roughly 2,000 soldiers. Altogether, this year’s exercise is the largest since the drill’s inception

Gen. Charles Flynn, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific, stated, “It’s a symbol of the U.S.-Indonesia bond and the growing relationship between land forces in this consequential region. Because land forces are the glue that binds the region’s security architecture together.”

In addition to the active participants in the drill, members from Britain, Canada, India, Malaysia, and South Korea were among those observing the exercise amounting to a reported 14 total nations engaged in Super Garuda Shield.

China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, told CNN, “China has every right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and went on to claim of China’s own continued aggression, “We are fully justified to do what we must. The current situation is created purely by the U.S. side, so of course it has to bear the responsibilities.”

These actions included reports from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense that 21 Chinese warplanes made incursions into Taiwanese air space after Pelosi’s arrival as they attempt to find a scapegoat for their own plans in Taiwan.

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