As part of its largest-ever military drills surrounding Taiwan, China launched ballistic missiles, sent out fighter jets, and brought in warships on Thursday. This show of force was in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
Pelosi defied a number of stern warnings from Beijing, which regards the self-governing island as part of its territory, becoming the highest-profile American politician to visit Taiwan in years.
China undertook a number of exercises in reprisal, crossing some of the busiest shipping channels in the world and occasionally only 12 miles from the island’s coast.
According to the Chinese military, the drills included a “conventional missile firepower attack” in the waters to the east of Taiwan.
According to Eastern Theater Command spokesman Senior Colonel Shi Yi, the mission aimed to test the missiles’ accuracy as well as their capacity to prevent an opponent from entering or controlling a space.
Taiwan alleged that the Chinese military launched multiple ballistic missiles of the Dongfeng class and denounced the drills as “irrational activities that jeopardize regional peace.”
According to Chinese official television, military drills involving live firing on the airspace and seas surrounding Taiwan began on August 4, 2022, as shown on a TV in Hong Kong, China. REUTERS TYRONE SIU
Taipei remained mum regarding the missiles’ landing location or whether they passed the island.
Journalists from Agence France-Presse on the border island of Pingtan witnessed a number of small missiles launch into the air, followed by clouds of white smoke and loud booms.
On the mainland, AFP observed a group of five military helicopters flying at a rather low height close to a well-known tourist attraction at what is reportedly China’s closest point to Taiwan.
According to a Taiwanese source who had been informed on the exercises, Chinese navy ships and military aircraft crossed the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait many times for a brief period of time.
In order to keep track of multiple Chinese aircraft that crossed the border, Taiwan launched jets and deployed missile systems.
According to Reuters, its source stated, “They repeatedly flew in before leaving. They keep bothering us.”
Beijing has said that Sunday’s drills will end at noon.
According to military analysts cited by China’s nationalist state-run tabloid Global Times, the exercises were “unprecedented” and missiles will fly over Taiwan for the first time.
Beijing has defended the drills as “necessary and just,” pinning the blame for the escalation on the United States and its allies.
“In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing Wednesday.
A Chinese military source also told AFP the exercises would be staged “in preparation for actual combat”.
“If the Taiwanese forces come into contact with the PLA on purpose and accidentally fire a gun, the PLA will take stern countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Taiwanese side,” the source said.
The movements are occurring along some of the busiest shipping routes in the world, which are used to transport semiconductors and electrical products made in East Asian manufacturing centres to international markets.
Ships are advised not to enter the locations used for the Chinese drills by Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau.
The drills, according to the Taiwanese cabinet, will affect 18 international routes that pass through its flight information zone (FIR).
Pelosi told reporters in Japan, reiterating remarks she had made at her earlier press conference in Taiwan, that the Chinese government would not control who was allowed to visit the island.
“They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places. But they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there,” Pelosi said. She later added, “We will not allow them to isolate Taiwan. They are not doing our travel schedule. The Chinese government is not doing that.”
The 23 million residents of Taiwan have long faced the prospect of invasion, but under President Xi Jinping, China’s most forceful leader in a generation, that threat has grown more serious.
In anticipation of a major ruling party gathering this autumn, where Xi is anticipated to be handed a historic third term, analysts say the Chinese leadership is eager to project power.
“China’s announced military exercises represent a clear escalation from the existing baseline of Chinese military activities around Taiwan and from the last Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-1996,” said Amanda Hsiao, senior analyst for China at the International Crisis Group. “Beijing is signaling that it rejects Taiwan’s sovereignty.”
However, analysts have told AFP that China is not now attempting to escalate the situation beyond its control.
The last thing Xi wants is an unintentional conflict, according to Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-Sen University.