A top U.S. military commander said on Tuesday that China's recent decision to fire missiles over Taiwan is a gorilla in the room that needs to be contested, a spokesman said on Tuesday. Beijing has carried out huge air and sea drills this month around Taiwan in a furious response to visits by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation.
Those exercises included firing multiple ballistic missiles into the waters off Taiwan - some of the world's busiest shipping routes - and it was the first time China has taken such a step since the mid 1990s.
It is very important that we contest this type of thing. I know that the gorilla is launching missiles over Taiwan, Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas told reporters in Singapore.
If we just allow that to happen, and we don't contest that, that'll be the next norm, he added.
It is irresponsible to launch missiles over Taiwan into international waters, where the shipping lanes are where free shipping operates. The Seventh Fleet is based in Japan and is a core part of Washington's navy presence in the Pacific.
During the month's drills, Chinese state media reported that some of the ballistic missiles fired by the People's Liberation Army followed a trajectory directly over Taiwan's capital, Taipei, a new escalation that Beijing stopped short of confirming.
Thomas compared Taiwan's threats to the South China Sea, where Beijing spent years building military bases and facilities on a series of contested atolls, while denying it was doing just that.