China Starts Military Drill: China’s largest ever military exercise encircling Taiwan began in a show of force on important international shipping lanes after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island on Thursday.
Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday after a visit that dismissed several serious threats from Beijing, which views the self-governing island as its own territory.
China Starts Military Drill after Pelosi visit
Pelosi was the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and said her visit made it “extremely clear” that the United States would not spare a Democratic ally.
It sparked a furious backlash from Beijing, which vowed “punishment” and announced military exercises in the seas around Taiwan – some of the world’s busiest waterways.
According to state media, the exercise, which began around 12 noon (0400 GMT), involves “live-firing”.
State broadcaster CCTV reported, “Six key areas around the island have been selected for this genuine combat exercise and during this period, relevant ships and aircraft should not enter the respective waters and airspace.”
The exercise will take place in several areas around Taiwan – at some points within just 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the coast – and will conclude at noon on Sunday.
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AFP journalists watched as Chinese forces fired projectiles into the Taiwan Strait, as Beijing’s military announced a “long-range ammunition firing” in the area.
AFP correspondents saw several small projectiles flying into the sky from the proximity of nearby military installations, accompanied by white smoke and loud noises.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was closely monitoring the exercise.
“The Ministry of National Defense emphasizes that it will adhere to the principle of preparedness for war without calling for war and the attitude of not escalating conflict and creating controversy,” the statement said.
Beijing’s nationalist state-run tabloid Global Times cited military analysts as saying the exercises were “unprecedented” and that the missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time.
“This is the first time the PLA will launch live long-range artillery” in the Taiwan Strait, the newspaper said, using the Chinese military’s formal name, the People’s Liberation Army.
The Group of Seven Industrialized Countries condemned the exercise, saying in a statement that “there was no justification for using the visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Straits”.
‘Preparing for the real match’
Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau issued a warning on Wednesday for ships to avoid areas being used for Chinese exercises.
Taiwan’s cabinet said the exercise would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its Flight Information Area (FIR).