China has launched unprecedented military exercises in six areas around Taiwan, a day after a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island that Beijing considers its sovereign territory.
Most important points:
- China’s state broadcaster CCTV says drills will be held from Thursday to Sunday
- The drills include live fire drills held on the waters and airspace around Taiwan
- Taiwan says the exercises penetrate the country’s territorial space and pose a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation
Shortly after starting at noon local time on Thursday, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said the exercises had begun and would last until Sunday.
It said the exercises, the largest ever by China in the Taiwan Strait, would include live firing on the waters and airspace around Taiwan.
China’s Eastern Theater Command confirmed it had fired conventional missiles several times into waters off Taiwan’s east coast as part of its planned exercises. The last time China fired missiles into the waters around Taiwan was in 1996.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 11 Dongfeng missiles had been fired into the waters northeast and southwest of the island.
Two missiles were also launched by China near Taiwan’s Matsu Islands, which lie off the coast of China, at around 2 p.m. local time toward drilling zones announced by China, according to an internal Taiwan security report seen by Reuters and confirmed by a Taiwanese security source. .
Taiwanese officials have said the exercises violate United Nations rules, invade Taiwan’s territorial space and pose a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation.
China is conducting exercises on the busiest international waterways and air routes in “irresponsible, illegal behavior,” Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that China had “imitated” North Korea by firing missiles into waters near the island and called for restraint.
The ministry also said China had threatened Taiwan’s security and urged countries to support the democratic island and defend freedom and democracy together.
Earlier on Thursday, Chinese naval ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the centerline of the Taiwan Strait several times, a Taiwanese source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
On Thursday afternoon, military ships from both sides remained in the area and in the vicinity. Taiwan scrambled fighter jets and deployed missile systems to track multiple Chinese planes crossing the line.
“They flew in and flew out again and again. They continue to harass us,” said the Taiwanese source.
Wednesday night, just hours after Ms. Pelosi left for South Korea, unidentified aircraft, likely drones, flew over the remote Kinmen Islands area in Taiwan, near the mainland coast, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
Major General Chang Zone-sung of the army’s Kinmen Defense Command told Reuters that the drones came in pairs and flew into the Kinmen area twice on Wednesday evening, around 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time.
“We immediately fired flares to warn and scare them away. Then they turned around,” he said.
They entered our restricted area and that’s why we distributed them.”
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and reserves the right to take it by force, said on Thursday that its disagreements with the self-ruled island were an internal matter.
“Our punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards, outside forces is reasonable and lawful,” said the Chinese Taiwan Bureau of Affairs.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Ms Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” act, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Wang said at a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that China has made the utmost diplomatic efforts to avert a crisis but would never allow its core interests to be harmed.
Foreign ministers previously warned that volatility from tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “miscalculations, serious clashes, open conflict and unpredictable consequences between major powers”.
Unusually, the drills in six areas around Taiwan were announced with a location map distributed by the official Xinhua news agency — a factor demonstrating for some analysts and scientists the need to play for both domestic and foreign audiences.
On Thursday, the top eight trending items on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service were Taiwan-related, with most expressing support for the drills or anger at Ms. Pelosi.
“Let’s reunite the motherland,” several users wrote.
In Beijing, security in the area around the US embassy remained unusually tight on Thursday, as it has been throughout the week. There were no signs of significant protests or calls to boycott US products.
“I think this [Ms Pelosi’s visit] is a good thing,” said a man named Zhao in the capital’s central business district.
“It gives us the opportunity to surround Taiwan and then use this opportunity to take Taiwan by force,” he said.
“I think we should thank Comrade Pelosi.”
Visit to Pelosi Increases Tensions Between US and China
Ms. Pelosi, the highest US visitor to Taiwan in 25 years, praised democracy and pledged US solidarity during her brief layover, adding that Chinese anger could not stop world leaders from traveling there.
China has summoned the US ambassador to Beijing to protest her visit and has halted several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make it unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Ms Pelosi told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whom Beijing suspects is pushing for formal independence – a red line for China .
“More than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that is the message we bring here today.”
The United States and the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven Nations warned China not to use Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said earlier this week that Ms. Pelosi had the right to visit Taiwan, while stressing that the trip did not violate Chinese sovereignty or the long-standing “one-way street.” China” policy of America.
The United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is required by US law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying that only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.