China announces ‘unpresidented’ military drills around Taiwan

China has begun large-scale military sea and air exercises around Taiwan, following a controversial visit to the island country by Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving for South Korea.

China’s military maneuvers started on Tuesday night with some taking place within 12 miles of the self-ruled island in protest against the arrival of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei.

The live fire drills began at 12:00 local time (04:00 GMT), as Chinese military helicopters were sighted flying past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest points to Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022

China’s defense ministry confirmed to NHK that it launched military exercises in waters around Taiwan at around noon on Thursday, following US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command also announced that shortly after 1:00 p.m. local time, it conducted long-range live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait, as part of what the defense ministry calls “important military exercises.”

The Eastern Theater Command, which is in charge of the East China Sea, also said that its Army forces “carried out precise strikes on specific areas of the Taiwan Strait, and achieved expected results.”

Taiwan said China, which regards the island nation as its own, was trying to revise the status quo in the region and had broken United Nations rules.

Beijing later announced a raft of retaliatory economic measures on Tuesday in response to Pelosi’s visit, which has blocked some international trade with the island.

Chinese military activity, involving firing long-range ammunition in congested shipping lanes in the Taiwan Strait, continued on Wednesday.

The Chinese defense ministry earlier said that the military “will take a series of targeted military operations in response to resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Taiwan says the drills have invaded its territorial space and amounted to a blockade of its air and sea.

Taiwan ‘will not back down amid China threats, says its president

Speaking to the BBC, Analyst Bonnie Lin said Taipei would react militarily, though there was a risk of confrontation between the pair.

“For example, if China decides to fly planes over Taiwan’s airspace, there is a chance that Taiwan might try to intercept them. And we could see a mid-air collision, we could see a lot of different scenarios playing out,” she said.

Beijing has not ruled out using force to take control of the island in the past.

The United States follows a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan and is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Washington said the drills were reckless and carried the risk of escalating the situation in the region.

The Taiwanese government has scrambled jets to intercept Chinese combat planes in recent days, while several ministries have suffered cyber-attacks.

On Thursday, the Global Times, a state-run, English-language Chinese newspaper, said the drills were a rehearsal for “reunification operation[s]”.

“In the event of a future military conflict, it is likely that the operational plans currently being rehearsed will be directly translated into combat operations,” Chinese mainland military expert Song Zhongping was quoted as saying.

The ministry said the exercises will be conducted in six areas on the sea and in the air surrounding Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.

Taiwan has warned shipping firms and airlines to avoid the six areas where Beijing has said exercises will take place. Some of these are directly in Taiwan’s territorial waters.

G7 nations have expressed worries about China’s response to the US visit, calling for restraint and saying China’s moves could cause the regional situation to spiral out of control.

“There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” a statement from the group of rich nations read. “The PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilising the region.”

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was the first by a major US politician in more than two decades. She made the trip as part of a wider Asian tour and will visit South Korea on Thursday.

Earlier, Beijing said there would be “serious consequences” in the run-up to the visit and warned Pelosi not to travel there.

The last big flare-up in the region between Taiwan, China and the US took place in 1996, before the re-election of Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.

And since then China has massively upgraded and expanded its military since then, building its very own aircraft carrier and hypersonic weaponry.

LENS with input from AFP/AP

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