Taiwan has accused China's military forces of simulating an attack on the island territory as Beijing continued its retaliatory measures following a provocative visit to Taipei by the top US legislator.
The US-sponsored Taipei declared on Saturday that it had observed "multiple" Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, describing the maneuvers as a simulation of an attack on the self-ruled island, long claimed by China.
"Multiple batches of Communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line," Taipei’s defense ministry said in a statement, referring to a demarcation line that runs down the Taiwan Strait which Beijing does not recognize.
The development came as relations between the world’s two largest economic and military powers took a nosedive in the wake of a controversial visit to Taipei by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi earlier in the week, which prompted calls from the United Nations for an urgent de-escalation of tensions.
Moreover, Beijing continued some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan on Saturday in moves that analysts describe as preparation for a potential blockade and ultimate capture of the island territory close to mainland China.
In an apparent effort to demonstrate just how close China's forces have been getting to Taiwan's shores, Beijing's military authorities released a video overnight of an air force pilot filming the island's coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
Beijing also announced that they would hold a live-fire drill in a southern part of the Yellow Sea -- located between China and the Korean peninsula -- starting Saturday and continuing until August 15.
The announcement coincided with a report by China's state broadcaster CCTV that Chinese missiles have flown directly over Taiwan during the latest drills -- a major escalation if confirmed.
Taipei, however, has remained defiant, insisting it would not be cowed by its "evil neighbor."
Taiwan report death of top missile production official
Meanwhile, a top official involved in Taiwan’s missile production efforts has reportedly died of heart problems.
In a statement posted on its website, Taiwan’s army-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology confirmed that its vice president Ouyang Li-hsing Ouyang was found unconscious on Saturday morning at a hotel in Hengchun, in southern Pingtung County, where he had traveled for business.
"Forensic examination found that the cause of death was myocardial infarction and angina pectoris," added a report by Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA).
Ouyang assumed his position earlier this year and was tasked with supervising "the production of various types of missiles," according to the report.
His death came as the island's government is trying to accelerate its own missile production in the face of China’s increasing military maneuvers around the territory, largely sparked by provocative transit of US warships through the Taiwan Strait as well as the surging sale of American weaponry and political visits to Taipei.
Beijing said on Friday that it would withdraw from a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington -- most notably on climate change and defense cooperation.
The world's two largest polluters had pledged to work together to accelerate climate action this decade and vowed to meet regularly to tackle the crisis -- a deal that now appears shaky.
The scale and intensity of China's latest military drills has also drawn claims of outrage by the US and its allies, with the White House summoning Beijing’s ambassador to Washington on Friday to rebuke him over Chinese actions.
Beijing's decision to withdraw from hard-won cooperation on climate change has also prompted fears –mostly in Western capitals -- about the future of the planet.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the two major powers must continue to work together -- for what his spokesman described as “the world's sake.”
"For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries," Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Friday.
The US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also censured China’s decision as "fundamentally irresponsible."
"They're actually punishing the whole world, because the climate crisis doesn't recognize geographic boundaries and borders," he said during a press briefing in Washington.
"The world's largest emitter now is refusing to engage on critical steps necessary to combat the climate crisis," he added.
Such claims came as the US remains infamous for repeatedly refusing to cooperate with global efforts to deal with the world’s intensifying climate issues.