China Updates: In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island, China has staged extensive military drills and fired three ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan. The livefire drills in six locations near Taiwan began at noon local time (04:00 GMT) on Thursday and will last until the same time on Sunday, according to Chinese official media. In a statement reported by state media, senior colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command, said that rocket troops in several mainland areas launched various types of missiles carrying conventional warheads to specified waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan.
He added that the drills tested the missiles’ accuracy and their capacity to deny an enemy access to or control of a region. All of the missiles hit their targets accurately, he said. The Chinese military launched ballistic missiles of the Dongfeng class, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, at approximately 1:56 p.m. local time (05:56 GMT) on Thursday. The exercises were denounced as “irrational activities that jeopardise regional peace” and it was added that two missiles were fired close to Taiwan’s Matsu islands, which are off the coast of the mainland. The last time China launched missiles into the waters around Taiwan was in 1996, just before President Lee Tenghui was reelected after visiting the US the year before. Beijing claims Taiwan as its own and hasn’t ruled out using force to seize control of the island, threatening “severe consequences” in response to Pelosi’s visit. The visit by Pelosi, the third highest ranking official in the US, was the first by a speaker of the house in 25 years. While maintaining formal diplomatic ties with China, the US pursues a policy of “strategic ambiguity” with regard to Taiwan and is required by law to give the 23 million-person island the means to defend itself.
Taiwan on alert
Staterun tabloid The Global Times described Thursday’s exercises as a practise for “reunification operation(s)”.It described Song Zhongping, a military expert on the Chinese mainland, as stating, “In the event of a future military war, it is possible that the operational plans currently being practised will be directly transferred into combat operations. “According to another analyst, Zhang Xuefeng, “the conventional missiles of the PLA would fly over the island if they were launched from the mainland toward the west of Taiwan and hit targets to the east.” He was cited as remarking that this would be “unprecedented.” Taiwan’s territorial waters are included in some of the six locations Beijing has said the exercises are taking place. The island has previously advised aircraft and maritime companies to steer clear of the areas.