BEIJING >> China said today it carried out its fourth consecutive day of military drills in the air and sea around Taiwan in the wake of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island, despite international calls to calm the tensions.
The People’s Liberation Army said the exercises focused on testing its long-range air and ground strikes. It did not say if it will continue the drills after Sunday.
Taiwan said that it continued to detect several batches of Chinese aircraft, ships and drones operating around the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island and mainland China, and “simulating attacks on the island of Taiwan and our ships at sea.” Taiwan’s defense ministry said it detected a total of 66 Chinese aircraft and 14 Chinese warships conducting joint naval and air exercises around the Taiwan Strait. In response, Taiwan deployed air reconnaissance patrols, naval ships, and shore-based missiles, and said that it will continue to closely monitor the situation.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency meanwhile reported that Taiwan’s army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday, in response to the Chinese exercises.
The drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armored vehicles as well as attack helicopters, said the report, which cited an anonymous source.
China set up no-go areas around Taiwan for the four-day drills it announced immediately after Pelosi’s trip to Taipei on Tuesday and Wednesday which infuriated Beijing, which saw it as a violation of the “one-China” policy. China claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognizing its sovereignty.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense emphasized that its military was surveilling the situation and had dispatched aircraft and ships to respond accordingly.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has called on the international community to “support democratic Taiwan” and “halt any escalation of the regional security situation.”
China has so far conducted missile strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan, and sent warships across the Taiwan Straits median line. It has also cut off defense and climate talks with the U.S. and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for her visit.
The Biden administration and Pelosi say the U.S. remains committed to the “one-China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the legitimate government but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
The U.S. however criticized Beijing’s actions in the Taiwan Strait, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling them “fundamentally irresponsible.”
“There’s no need and no reason for this escalation,” Jean-Pierre said.
Singapore’s coordinating minister for national security Teo Chee Hean said in a Facebook post Saturday that the U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan is “an issue that can lead to conflict and war to the detriment of all parties involved, especially the people in Taiwan.”
The tensions have a negative impact on Southeast Asia, Teo said, adding: “We hope that wisdom will prevail.”