BEIJING: Hours after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departed from Taipei following a visit that has rankled Beijing, China’s Eastern Military Command said on Thursday that it had carried out long-range firing in precision strikes at specific areas in the eastern part of the Taiwan Strait as part of planned exercises.
Chinese navy ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line on Thursday morning, a Taiwan source briefed on the matter told Reuters on Thursday. China had on Wednesday commenced military drills around Taiwan`s main island, according to Chinese state media, hours after the US House Speaker departed from Taipei.
Live-fire drills began in six identified zones around the island at noon local time, Al Jazeera reported citing China state media. According to Xinhua News Agency, the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People`s Liberation Army (PLA) on Wednesday organized joint combat training exercises in the northern, southwestern and southeastern waters and airspace off Taiwan Island.
Under the Eastern Theater Command, the exercises involved troops from the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Logistic Support Force. “The exercises focused on key training sessions including joint blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, and airspace control operation, and the joint combat capabilities of the troops got tested in the military operations,” Xinhua added.
Responding to a question about the PLA`s decision to kick off the drills two days after Pelosi`s arrival, a military expert said that the arrangement shows the army`s rational and responsible attitude as it leaves time for domestic and foreign civilian ships and airlines to evacuate their ships and adjust their flights, Global Times reported.
Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the Naval Research Academy of the People`s Liberation Army, said that the drills include long-range live-fire shooting and conventional missile test launches. As per the international conventions, areas of military drills have to be disclosed three days in advance and 24 hours in advance under an emergency situation.
“That is mainly to leave enough time for domestic and foreign ships to evacuate as well as for related civilian airlines to adjust their routes to avoid the areas. The move is intended to avoid hurting ordinary people during the drills, showing the rational and responsible attitude of the PLA,” Zhang said as quoted by Global Times.
Taiwan`s defence ministry said that an unidentified aircraft flew above the Kinmen Islands, Taiwanese territory off China`s southeastern coast, on Wednesday night and it had fired flares in response.
Major General Chang Zone-sung of the military`s Kinmen Defense Command said that the Chinese drones came in a pair and flew into the Kinmen area twice on Wednesday night, at about 9 pm (6:30 pm IST) and 10 pm (7:30 pm IST), Al Jazeera reported citing Reuters News Agency.
“We immediately fired flares to issue warnings and to drive them away. After that, they turned around. They came into our restricted area and that`s why we dispersed them,” he said. The Group of Seven developed nations has expressed concern at China`s response to Pelosi`s visit, calling for calm and saying the moves by the People`s Republic of China (PRC) risked unnecessary escalation.
Pelosi`s visit, which is also the highest level of US visits in more than two decades, left China heavily infuriated and the communist nation warned the US that it will “pay the price.”
Pelosi`s trip has heightened US-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first speaker of the house to come to Taiwan in 25 years since Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Chinese military had announced holding live-fire naval exercises in the Taiwan Strait after Pelosi`s visit which is mainly seen to build security and economic momentum for the Indo-Pacific and is also seen as a move by the US to build pressure on China over its claim on Taiwan, responding to which the Pentagon also sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.
Earlier, China sent 27 aircraft to Taiwan`s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), the island`s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday hours after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taipei.
China which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, announced multiple military exercises around the island, issued a series of harsh statements and even summoned the US ambassador to Beijing, Nicholas Burns, to protest against Pelosi`s visit to Taiwan. Moreover, China has decided to avoid meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers` Meeting in Cambodia.