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China begins military drills as Taiwan faces Pelosi visit fallout

China’s largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan have kicked off, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes after a controversial visit to the island state by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The exercises, including those involving live fire, began on Thursday afternoon and will be the biggest aimed at Taiwan since 1995 when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure over a visit by then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui to the US.

“From 12:00 pm today to 12:00 pm on (August) 7, an important military exercise of the People’s Liberation Army is taking place,” CCTV reported, in a social media post that included a map of Taiwan.

Nationalist state-run tabloid Global Times said, citing military analysts, that the exercises were “unprecedented” and that missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time.

“This is the first time the PLA will launch live long-range artillery across” the Taiwan Strait, the newspaper said using the Chinese military’s formal name, the People’s Liberation Army.

Taiwan’s military said its forces were closely monitoring the unprecedented Chinese drills and was prepared for conflict, but would not seek it.

“The Ministry of National Defence stresses that it will uphold the principle of preparing for war without seeking war, and with an attitude of not escalating conflict and causing disputes,” Taipei’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

China’s Taiwan affairs office said the punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards and external forces was reasonable and lawful. Taiwan is not a “regional” issue but China’s internal affair, the Beijing-based Taiwan affairs office added.

The drills come as Group of Seven leaders urged Beijing to show restraint while the ASEAN foreign ministers also warned the situation “could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

The senior US politician left Taiwan on Wednesday morning, having defied a series of increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.

After Pelosi’s departure, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry announced that 27 Chinese warplanes had entered the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

Drills in preparation for ‘actual combat’

Thursday’s drills will include “long-range live ammunition shooting” in the Taiwan Strait. The zone of Chinese exercises will be within 20 kilometres of Taiwan’s shoreline at some points, according to coordinates released by the Chinese military.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang said that some of the areas of China’s drills “breach into … (Taiwan’s) territorial waters”.

But a source with the Chinese military told the AFP news agency that the 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 warned.

Drills in preparation for ‘actual combat’

Thursday’s drills will include “long-range live ammunition shooting” in the Taiwan Strait. The zone of Chinese exercises will be within 20 kilometres of Taiwan’s shoreline at some points, according to coordinates released by the Chinese military.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang said that some of the areas of China’s drills “breach into … (Taiwan’s) territorial waters”.

But a source with the Chinese military told the AFP news agency that the 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 warned.

Pelosi meets dissidents

Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, is the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

Before leaving Taiwan, Pelosi also met with several dissidents who have previously been in the crosshairs of China’s wrath – including Tiananmen protest student leader Wu’er Kaixi.

Pelosi’s trip heightened US-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her position as leader of the House of Representatives.

The last House speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Beijing considers Taiwan as an inseparable part of itself, but the latter has maintained its self-rule since 1949 and enjoys diplomatic ties with at least 14 countries.

Interactions between Washington and Taipei have grown significantly since the tenure of former US president Donald Trump, with former and sitting lawmakers making trips to the island, home to more than 25 million people.

The US formally recognised China in 1979 and shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, and accepted Taiwan as part of the mainland under Washington’s One China policy.

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