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More than 5,000 U.S. and allied troops have flown by land, sea and air for joint combat exercises in Indonesia, while China has continued its aggressive behavior, flying hundreds of warplanes near Taiwan in recent weeks.
The military exercise was the largest of its kind since the nations first began working together in 2009.
“I spend every waking minute doing whatever it takes to make sure we prevent conflict in the region,” said US Navy Adm. John Aquilino, who oversaw the exercise. “And that is my commitment to all my partners. Every day we will try to prevent a war.”
Activities in the Indo-Pacific region come at a time of heightened tensions with China over Taiwan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the first in her position to visit the island since Newt Gingrich in 1997. Ahead of the trip, which was rumored long before it was confirmed, Chinese officials threatened that the US would face consequences if Pelosi went there.
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In the days leading up to Pelosi’s visit, which was in the middle of a multi-country tour of Asia, the US dispatched the USS Ronald Reagan and a task force to the South China Sea, although a Navy spokesman said it was a planned voyage.
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Since then, China has launched missiles and invaded Taiwan’s sea and air space. This has led to Taiwan conducting its own military drills to demonstrate its ability to resist China.
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Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said that China is using Pelosi’s trip as a pretext for its aggressive actions and that it is just a pretext to push Taiwan towards “peaceful reunification” with China.
“China has launched military provocations for these reasons,” Ou said, “this is absurd and a barbaric act that also undermines regional stability and disrupts shipping and trade activities in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.