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China begins live-fire drills around Taiwan

August 4, 2022

Beijing has launched major military exercises encircling the island in a show of force after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit. Taiwan has decried the "illegitimate, irresponsible" drills.

In an handout image provided by the Chinese military, a missile is fired and launched into the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan during military exercises
China has embarked upon several days of military drills in a number of zones surrounding TaiwanImage: EASTERN THEATRE COMMAND/REUTERS

China launched massive, live-ammunition military drills encircling Taiwan on Thursday which, according to Taipei's Defense Ministry, included 11 ballistic missiles landing in the waters off the island's northern, southern and eastern coasts.

Military exercises conducted by the navy, air force and other departments took place in six zones surrounding Taiwan, while China's official Xinhua News Agency said the drills were joint operations focused on "blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, and airspace control."

And China's eastern military command confirmed that, at around 1 p.m. (0500 GMT), units of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) "implemented long-range fire live firing training in the Taiwan Strait and conducted precise strikes on specific areas in the eastern part of the Taiwan Strait," which separates mainland China from the island.

Taipei's Defense Ministry said on Thursday evening, local time, that 22 Chinese jets had crossed the Taiwan Strait median line inside the island's air defense zone.

The show of force around vital international shipping lanes — disrupting 18 international routes, according to Taiwan — comes after a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking politician to visit in 25 years.

In doing so, the United States had defied Beijing's threats of repercussions to the trip. 

What we know about the drills 

The drills, which are due to end at midday Sunday (0400 GMT), are taking place as close as 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Taiwan's shore at some points.

State-run tabloid the Global Times reported, citing military analysts, that the drills were "unprecedented," with missiles expected to fly over Taiwan.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying claimed the maneuvers were "defensive."

"In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi's Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim," she told a regular briefing Wednesday.

A map showing where the planned drills are due to take place

Taipei on alert

Taiwan has warned that the planned drills pose a threat to regional security. 

"This is an irrational move to challenge the international order," Defense Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang told a news conference Wednesday.

The island's Maritime and Port Bureau issued a warning to ships to avoid areas of the military exercises. 

Taiwan also reported on Wednesday that 27 Chinese military jets entered its air defense zone. 

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said it fired flares to drive away unidentified aircraft, likely drones, that had flown above Taiwan. 

Missiles land in Japan's EEZ waters

Japan said on Thursday that five Chinese projectiles landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as Nancy Pelosi was on her way to the country for the final leg of her Asia trip.

"This is a serious matter concerning the national security of our country and the safety of the people," Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.

Tokyo had "lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels," the minister said, adding that this marks the first time Chinese missiles have landed in Japanese waters.

Japan's Okinawa islands lie close to Taiwan and the range of the EEZ is up to 200 nautical miles off the coastline, far beyond the limits of the country's territorial waters.

Western and regional condemnation 

The White House said that China's decision to launch 11 ballistic missiles around Taiwan was "irresponsible" and an overreaction to Pelosi's visit. 

"China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker's visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait," spokesman John Kirby said, calling Beijing's actions a "significant escalation."

He added that a group of US naval vessels led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier would remain in the Taiwan region "to monitor the situation."

"We will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific consistent with international law, as we have for decades, supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific," Kirby said.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also condemned what he called Beijing's "aggressive" drills.      

"There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally," Borrell wrote on Twitter. 

His remarks echoed that of the G7, which said Beijing's "escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region."

Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also warned that the standoff could spark "open conflicts." 

The situation "could destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers," the ASEAN ministers said in a statement. 

Taiwan's ambassador to Germany, Jhy-Wey Shieh, called on Germany to send a delegation of lawmakers to the island in the wake of Pelosi's visit.

"I suggest that a Bundestag delegation led by the speaker of parliament travels to Taiwan," the diplomat said to the German newspaper Tagesspiegel. However, there was little sign that the speaker of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, would make the trip.

Chinese 'indignation' at G7 stance

Later on Thursday, amid the rising tensions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shelved a planned meeting with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi as he angrily rejected the G7 stance. Yi said the group, of which Japan is also a member, did not take into account the provocation from the United States in sending Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

The G7's position "groundlessly criticizes China for taking such measures, which are reasonable and legitimate steps to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Wang said in a statement issued by his ministry.

The G7 statement had aroused "great indignation" among the Chinese people, he added.

ab, jsi, fb/rs (AFP, Reuters, AP)