A global recession is looming and Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February this year has only exacerbated the world's economic doldrums. The prices of energy, food and other commodities are skyrocketing and if these crises facing mankind looked not enough, environmental disasters resulting from global warming are approaching.
Amid the most daunting challenges we have ever faced, a new disaster is unfolding in East Asia as a rivalry between big powers escalates.
China has launched its most extensive ever air and sea exercises around Taiwan in a furious response to United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island. Pelosi is the highest ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
AFP reported on Tuesday that Taiwan also held an artillery drill in a defense simulation, with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu accusing China of having used the exercises in its military playbook to "prepare for the invasion of Taiwan".
China's military announced joint air and sea drills near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of Taiwan. According to Chinese state media, three of the six live-fire drills will overlap with waters Taiwan claims as its territory. Ahead of the exercises, which are due to begin today, Taiwan said 27 Chinese warplanes had entered its air defense zone.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country’s actions were “legitimate, reasonable, by the law,” and aimed at protecting China’s “sacred sovereignty”. “It must be borne in mind that Taiwan is not a part of the United States – it is China’s territory," Wang said.
We call on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who recently took a diplomatic initiative to de-escalate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, to seek every path to help reduce tensions on the Taiwan Strait, given that he knows both US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping well. President Jokowi can leverage Indonesia's holding of the Group of 20 presidency to persuade the two leaders to exercise restraint. An open and direct military confrontation between the two giants is an unlikely scenario for many, but any miscalculation by either side could trigger a catastrophe in the Indo-Pacific region.
Beijing's reaction and Washington's provocation could have been intended to please the demanding domestic audiences, but the world needs them to show their wisdom to prevent another war from occurring. With the Ukraine war showing no signs of an end, another Pacific war after 60 years is the last thing we want.
Whether or not Pelosi's Taiwan visit constitutes a miscalculation, the fact is she has triggered new tensions in a region where everybody works together to forge partnerships toward prosperity for all.
The way China retaliated, however, has sent a worrying message to its neighboring countries, especially in Southeast Asia. The smaller neighbors are closely following the Taiwan crisis because the same thing could happen to them, albeit on a much smaller scale.
ASEAN member states Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam are embroiled in overlapping claims on the South China Sea with China, which claims nearly the whole high seas. China has repeatedly vowed to stick to peaceful negotiations to resolve the territorial disputes.
For the sake of global peace and order, respect for the long-standing "One China policy" should be the basis of any talks between President Biden and President Xi over the Taiwan cause.
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