BEIJING — China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days, while announcing sanctions on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her visit to the self-governing island earlier this week.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Friday that fighters, bombers, destroyers and frigates were all used in what it called “joint blockage operations” taking place in six zones off the coast of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
The military’s Eastern Theater Command also fired new versions of missiles it said hit unidentified targets in the Taiwan Strait “with precision.”
Those included projectiles fired over Taiwan into the Pacific, military officers told state media, in a major ratcheting up of China’s threats to annex the island by force.
The drills, which Xinhua described as being held on an “unprecedented scale,” are China’s response to a visit this week by Pelosi to Taiwan. This is her 25th visit to Taiwan by the U.S. highest-ranking politician.
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China announced unspecified sanction against Pelosi and her relatives. These sanctions are usually symbolic.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that Pelosi had disregarded China’s serious concerns and resolute opposition to her visit. It called Pelosi’s visit provocative and said it undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China is against Taiwan engaging in foreign relations.
Tourists gathered on Friday along the Chinese coast, across from Taiwan to see if any military plane was heading towards the area.
Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, “Let’s take Taiwan back,” looking out into the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan island, a popular scenic spot.
China’s insistence that Taiwan is its territory and threat to use force to bring it under its control has featured highly in ruling Communist Party propaganda, the education system and the entirely state-controlled media for the more than seven decades since the sides divided amid civil war in 1949.
Island residents overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demands that Taiwan unify with the mainland under Communist control.
According to the Taiwan Defense Ministry, China has sent warplanes and military ships across the Taiwan Strait’s mid-line on Friday morning. This crossing of what was for many decades an informal buffer zone between Taiwan and China, is a significant step in the history of this area.
Five of the missiles fired by China since the military exercises began Thursday landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said Japan protested the missile landings to China as “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry later said they believe the other four missiles, fired from China’s southeastern coast of Fujian, flew over Taiwan.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan represent a “grave problem” that threatens regional peace and security.
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Pelosi’s Asia tour is wrapping up in Tokyo. She said that China can not stop U.S. officials visiting Taiwan. Speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and her congressional delegation, Kishida said the missile launches need to be “stopped immediately.”
China stated that it summoned European diplomats present in China to protest the statements of the Group of Seven and the European Union critiquing threatening Chinese military activities surrounding Taiwan.
The Foreign Ministry on Friday said Vice Minister Deng Li made “solemn representations” over what he called “wanton interference in China’s internal affairs.”
Deng said China would “prevent the country from splitting with the strongest determination, using all means and at any cost.”
“Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a blatant political manipulation and a blatant and serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Deng said. “In response to the U.S.-Taiwan collusion and provocation, China’s counterattack is only natural.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said the meeting was held Thursday night but gave no information on which countries participated. Earlier Thursday, China canceled a foreign ministers’ meeting with Japan to protest the G-7 statement that there was no justification for the exercises.
The ministers attended a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia.
China summoned the U.S. earlier. Ambassador Nicholas Burns to protest Pelosi’s visit. After meeting President TsaiIng-wen, and other events, the speaker left Taiwan Wednesday. After meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen, she traveled onward to South Korea and Japan. These two countries are home to U.S. military bases, and they could become involved in a Taiwan conflict.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese exercises will involve forces from the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force, and Logistic Support Force.
These are thought to be the most significant in Taiwan, according to geographical data. Beijing announced six exercise zones around the island.
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the drills Thursday saying, “I hope very much that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity. We countries around the world believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests.”
U.S. law requires the government to treat threats to Taiwan, including blockades, as matters of “grave concern.”
The drills are due to run from Thursday to Sunday and include missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters held in 1995 and 1996.
Taiwan’s military has been on high alert. They also staged civil defense drills. But, overall the atmosphere remained calm on Friday. To avoid Chinese drills, fishermen remain in port and have cancelled or diverted flights.
In the northern port of Keelung, Lu Chuan-hsiong, 63, was enjoying his morning swim Thursday, saying he wasn’t worried.
“Everyone should want money, not bullets,” Lu said.
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