China begins ‘illegal, irresponsible’ military exercises with live fire near Taiwan after Pelosi visit


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.

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. .

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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.

Helicopter flies past tourists on the lookout bridge next to the ocean.
China has started conducting military exercises and training activities around Taiwan.(AFP: Hector Retamal)

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.

    US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks with Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu
Hours after Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan, China sent unidentified planes into Taiwan’s airspace.(Source: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

“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.

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