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China holds second day of drills around Taiwan as US tensions flare

A missile is launched by the rocket force of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), targeting designated maritime areas to the east of the Taiwan Island, August 4, 2022. (Photo by Xinhua)

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 state-run 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.

White House spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday said that China had “chosen to overreact” to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

"China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker's visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait," White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“The temperature’s pretty high,” but tensions “can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these very aggressive military drills,” he said.

Japan has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint against Beijing for the drills after five of the missiles reportedly landed in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Friday decried the drills as a "serious problem that impacts our national security and the safety of our citizens" and called for an "immediate cancellation of the military drills."

The Group of Seven (G7) Foreign Ministers and the High Representative of the European Union also expressed concern over what they claimed as "threatening actions" by China, including the live-fire exercises and economic coercion which could pose a risk of escalation.

They called on China not to "unilaterally change the status quo" in the region and peacefully resolve the issues and stressed that there is "no justification" to initiate military activity in Taiwan Strait over the visit of a legislator and called it "normal" for lawmakers to travel to countries.

China said on Friday said it summoned European diplomats to protest statements issued by the Group of Seven nations and the European Union criticizing threatening Chinese military exercises surrounding Taipei.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Vice Minister Deng Li made “solemn representations” over what he called “wanton interference in China’s internal affairs.”

US will 'not allow' China to isolate Taipei

On the final leg of her tour of Asia, Pelosi said in Tokyo on Friday that Washington would "not allow" China to isolate Taipei.

"They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there," she told reporters in Tokyo. "We had high-level visits, senators in the spring, the bi-partisan way, continuing visits, and we will not allow them to isolate Taiwan."

The visit to Taiwan by the US House speaker, who is third in line to presidency and a long-time critic of China, comes amid strained ties between the US and China.

Beijing has repeatedly warned the US government against formal ties with Taipei, which is the sovereign territory of China.

Under the "one-China" policy, nearly all countries recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, including the US. But Washington continues to court the secessionist government in Taipei, supports its anti-China stance, and supplies it with massive amounts of armaments, much to the chagrin of Beijing. 

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