China holds second day of drills around Taiwan as US tensions flare
For the second straight day, China continued its largest-ever military exercises around Chinese Taipei on Friday in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's widely criticized visit to the self-ruled island.
The military maneuvers by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which kicked off on Thursday, have led to heightened tensions across east Asia.
The Chinese military launched a series of drills across six zones surrounding Taipei on Thursday after Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in a quarter century, boarded her heavily-guarded plane back to the US.
China has vowed to press ahead with the drills despite hard-hitting statements of condemnation by the United States, Japan, and the European Union.
The drills, as the Chinese military said, involved a "conventional missile firepower assault" in waters to the east of Taiwan, with Beijing stressing on Friday that the exercises will continue until midday Sunday.
Beijing's Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese army "flew more than 100 warplanes including fighters and bombers" during the drills, as well as "over 10 destroyers and frigates."
Taipei said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles "in several batches," while Japan claimed of the nine missiles it had detected, four were "believed to have flown over Taiwan's main island.” Chinese Taipei, however, said it would not confirm missile flight paths.
On Friday, the island's ministry of defense said that multiple PLA ships and planes had crossed the median line in the wee hours of the morning. The ministry said it had dispatched aircraft and ships and deployed land-based missile systems to monitor the situation.
“Adhering to the principle of preparing for war and not seeking war, the national army will work together to firmly defend the sovereignty and national security,” the statement noted.
Pelosi's controversial and ill-timed visit has been widely condemned with countries such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea backing the one-China principle and denouncing the breach of China's territorial integrity.
'Countermeasures to US provocations'
Beijing says the drills are countermeasures in the face of provocations by the United States and its allies in Chinese Taipei, but the exercises have triggered outrage in the US and some other countries in the West.
"In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi's Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing Wednesday.
A Chinese military source was quoted as saying by AFP that exercises would be staged "in preparation for actual combat".
"If the Taiwanese forces come into contact with the PLA on purpose and accidentally fire a gun, the PLA will take stern countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Taiwanese side," the source said.