Xi Jinping flexed his military muscle as he launched unprecedented military drills a day after a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid fears of all-out war. Soon after the scheduled start, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said the drills had begun and would end on Sunday.
Tourists can be seen looking on as smoke trails from missiles launched by the Chinese military are seen in the sky from Pingtan Island.
It said the exercises, the largest ever by China in the Taiwan Strait, would include live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan.
China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it had completed multiple firings of conventional missiles on waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan as part of the planned exercises.
The last time China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan was in 1996.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said several Dongfeng missiles had been fired in waters to the northeast and southwest of the island.
Two missiles were also launched by China near Taiwan’s Matsu islands, which lie off the coast of China, at around 2pm (local time) in the direction of drill zones announced by China, according to an internal Taiwan security report.
Taiwan officials have said the drills violate United Nations rules, invade Taiwan’s territorial space and are a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party said China was conducting drills on the busiest international waterways and aviation routes and that is “irresponsible, illegitimate behaviour”.
Chinese navy ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line several times on Thursday morning.
By midday on Thursday, military vessels from both sides remained in the area and in close proximity.
Taiwan scrambled jets and deployed missile systems to track multiple Chinese aircraft crossing the line.
A Taiwanese source said:”They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us.”
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and reserves the right to take it by force, said on Thursday its differences with the self-ruled island were an internal affair.
MORE TO FOLLOW