CHINA. Beijing: China conducted its largest-ever military exercises outside Taiwan on Thursday, launching ballistic missiles, deploying fighter jets and deploying warships in a show of force prompted by the House Speaker’s visit. from the United States, Nancy Pelosi, on the island.
Pelosi defied several stern warnings from Beijing, which considers the self-governing island part of its territory, becoming the most high-profile US official to visit Taiwan in years.
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China responded by launching a number of exercises in various areas near Taiwan, some of which were only 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the island’s shores and crossed some of the world’s busiest shipping channels. .
The exercises, which included a “conventional missile firepower attack” in waters east of Taiwan, began around noon (0400 GMT), according to the Chinese military.
According to Eastern Theater Command spokesman, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, the mission was to test the accuracy and ability of the missiles to prevent an adversary from entering or controlling a space.
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Taiwan said the Chinese military “in several batches” fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles and denounced the drills as “irrational activities that jeopardize regional peace”. Taipei has remained mum on where the missiles landed or whether they passed the island.
Eyewitnesses saw a number of small missiles on the border island of Pingtan firing into the sky, followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booms.
On the mainland, a cluster of five military helicopters flies at a relatively low height near a well-known tourist attraction at what is believed to be China’s closest point to Taiwan. The exercises, according to Beijing, will continue until Sunday noon.
Extremely close range
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Beijing has defended the exercises as “just and necessary” blaming Washington and its partners for the escalation. During a routine briefing on Thursday, Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said that “in the face of this brazen provocation, we must take legal and necessary measures to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “.
According to military specialists who spoke to CCTV from Beijing, the intention was to simulate a potential blockade of the island and confine pro-independence forces on the island.
According to Zhang Junshe, senior researcher at the Naval Research Institute of China, “The goal is to demonstrate that the PLA is capable of controlling all exits from the island of Taiwan, which will be a formidable deterrent to the secessionist ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.”
Meng Xiangqing, a military analyst, pointed out that “operations are carried out at an unprecedented distance from the island of Taiwan.
“The activities will have a stronger deterrent effect than ever before.”
The movements are occurring along some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, which are used to transport semiconductors and electrical products made in East Asian manufacturing hubs to international markets.
According to a warning from the Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau, ships should stay away from locations used for Chinese drills.
The Taiwanese cabinet also claimed that the drills would disrupt 18 international routes that cross its flight information area (FIR).
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long faced the prospect of an invasion, but it has worsened under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in a generation.
Ahead of a major ruling party rally this fall, where Xi is expected to be given an unprecedented third term, analysts say China’s leaders are eager to project power.
According to Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group, “China’s declared military exercises indicate a significant escalation from the existing base of Chinese military actions around Taiwan and the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-96.”
Beijing sends the message that it disapproves of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Analysts, however, said that at this time China has no intention of escalating the situation beyond its ability to handle it.
The last thing Xi wants is a “involuntary conflict”according to Titus Chen, associate professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.
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