China said that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days, while announcing sanctions on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her visit to the self-governing island earlier this week.
The official Xinhua News Agency said that fighters, bombers, destroyers and frigates were all used in what it called “joint blockage operations” taking place in six zones off the coast of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory. The military’s Eastern Theatre Command also fired new versions of missiles it said hit unidentified targets in the Taiwan Strait “with precision”.
Those included projectiles fired over Taiwan into the Pacific, military officers told state media, in a major ratcheting up of China’s threats to annex the island by force.
The drills, which Xinhua described as being held on an “unprecedented scale”, are China’s response to a visit this week by Pelosi to Taiwan.
She is the highest ranking US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China announced unspecified sanctions on Pelosi and her family. Such sanctions are generally mostly symbolic in nature.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that Pelosi had disregarded China’s serious concerns and resolute opposition to her visit.
It called Pelosi’s visit provocative and said it undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China opposes Taiwan having its own engagements with foreign governments.
On the Chinese coast across from Taiwan, tourists gathered yesterday to try to catch a glimpse of any military aircraft heading toward the exercise area.
Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, “Let’s take Taiwan back”, looking out into the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan island, a popular scenic spot.
China’s insistence that Taiwan is its territory and threat to use force to bring it under its control has featured highly in ruling Communist Party propaganda, the education system and the entirely state-controlled media for the more than seven decades since the sides divided amid civil war in 1949.
Island residents overwhelmingly favour maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demands that Taiwan unify with the mainland under Communist control.
Yesterday morning, China sent military ships and war planes across the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwanese Defence Ministry said, crossing what had for decades been an unofficial buffer zone between China and Taiwan.
China also said it summoned European diplomats in the country to protest statements issued by the Group of Seven nations and the European Union criticising threatening Chinese military exercises surrounding Taiwan.
The Foreign Ministry yesterday said Vice-Minister Deng Li made “solemn representations” over what he called “wanton interference in China’s internal affairs”.
Deng said China would “prevent the country from splitting with the strongest determination, using all means and at any cost”.
“Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a blatant political manipulation and a blatant and serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
“In response to the US-Taiwan collusion and provocation, China’s counterattack is only natural.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said the meeting was held on Thursday night but gave no information on which countries participated. — AP