China starts military operations around Taiwan
- China has started a series of “targeted” military operations in six areas around Taiwan today in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island. Calling the military exercises “military operations” (军事行动 junshi xingdong) rather than “military training” (军事演习 junshi yanxi) as it usually does, the Ministry of National Defense of China implied that the activities until August 7 are more similar to a real war. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has never taken any defense drills so close to the island. The operations could essentially result in a semi-blockade of Taiwan for three days, with live-fire drills taking place near the major ports and flights having to avoid the military exercise areas.
- In a joint statement yesterday, the Group of Seven (G7) condemned the operations, saying they are “threatening” and “risk unnecessary escalation.” “There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement read. The group also reiterated there is “no change in the respective one China policies.” But from China’s perspective, the visit by the “No.3 figure” (三号人物 sanhao renwu) of the U.S. government is already a “blatant violation” of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi said (Zh/En) yesterday.
- Pelosi arrived in South Korea on Wednesday. However, President Yoon Suk-yeol will skip a meeting with her due to a schedule conflict with his holiday. Many suspect Yoon is avoiding provoking China. North Korea yesterday denounced Pelosi’s trip, backing China’s position.
- Japan, the next stop on Pelosi’s tour and a G7 member, is alert to the drills. Tokyo is concerned that the military exercise areas overlap with its self-claimed Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Some see the drills partly targeting Japan. China’s Foreign Ministry denied the notion of a “Japanese EEZ” there, saying “China and Japan have not yet carried out maritime delimitation in relevant waters.”
Senate approves NATO membership for Finland, Sweden
- The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), clearing the threshold for ratifying the alliance’s expansion. President Joe Biden hailed the “historic vote” in a statement Wednesday.
- Under the U.S. Constitution (Article II, section 2), the Senate has the sole power to approve treaties negotiated by the executive branch. Before the vote, the President and his representatives submit the treaties to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration. The Senate then needs a two-thirds vote to pass a resolution of ratification. Only after that can the President ratify the treaties by exchanging signed instruments of ratification with foreign powers. The U.S. Senate has approved almost all treaties.