August 20, 2022

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China fired missiles into waters off Taiwan in its largest-ever exercise

China fired missiles into waters off Taiwan in its largest-ever exercise

  • Chinese military exercises include 11 missile launches
  • Taiwan says several government websites have been hacked
  • China says it’s an internal affair
  • The Chinese exercises are scheduled to continue until Sunday

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China fired several missiles around Taiwan on Thursday in an unprecedented military exercise, a day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island, which Beijing considers sovereign territory.

The exercises, the largest in Chinese history in the Taiwan Strait, began as scheduled midday and included live firing in waters north, south and east of Taiwan, raising tensions in the region to their highest levels in a quarter of a century.

China’s Eastern Theater Command said around 3:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) that it had completed multiple launches of conventional missiles in waters off Taiwan’s east coast as part of planned exercises in six different regions that Beijing said would continue until Sunday noon. .

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Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 11 Chinese Dongfeng ballistic missiles were fired into the waters around the island. The last time China launched missiles into the waters around Taiwan was in 1996. Read more

Map showing the six locations where China will conduct military exercises.

Taiwan officials condemned the exercises, saying they violated United Nations rules, invaded its territory and posed a direct challenge to the freedom of air and sea navigation.

Tensions were rising before Pelosi’s surprise but closely watched visit to Taiwan, which came in defiance of heated warnings from China.

A Taiwanese source familiar with the matter told Reuters that before the start of official exercises on Thursday, Chinese navy ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait several times in the morning. Read more

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By midday, warships from both sides remained in and close to the area, and Taiwan scrambled with jets and deployed missile systems to track the many Chinese planes crossing the line.

“They flew and then left again and again. They keep harassing us,” the Taiwanese source said.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and reserves the right to seize it by force, said on Thursday that its differences with the self-governing island were an internal affair. Read more

“Our punishment of pro-Taiwan independence militants and outside forces is reasonable and legitimate,” the Beijing-based China Taiwan Affairs Office said.

In Taiwan, life has largely been normal, despite fears Beijing could take the unprecedented step of launching a missile over the main island, similar to North Korea’s launch over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido in 2017.

Taiwanese residents have long been familiar with Beijing’s threats.

“When China says it wants to annex Taiwan by force, they already said it long ago,” said Chen Mingcheng, a 38-year-old realtor. “From my personal point of view, they are trying to deflect the public’s anger, and the anger of their own people, and divert it to Taiwan.”

But Taiwan said the websites of the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Office were attacked by hackers, and warned that “psychological warfare” could escalate in the coming days.

Comrade Pelosi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “crazy, irresponsible and highly irrational act” on the part of the United States, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

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Wang, who was speaking at a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said China has made maximum diplomatic effort to avert the crisis, but will never allow its core interests to be harmed.

Unusually, exercises in six regions around Taiwan were announced with a GPS map distributed by Xinhua earlier this week – a factor that shows to some analysts and scholars the need to play out in front of domestic and foreign audiences. Read more

On Thursday, the eight most trending items on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service were related to Taiwan, with most expressing support for the rehearsals or anger at Pelosi.

Many users wrote: “Let’s reunite the Motherland.”

In Beijing, security measures in the area around the US embassy remained extraordinarily tight as they had been all week. There were no signs of major protests or calls for a boycott of US products.

“I think this (Pelosi visit) is a good thing,” said a man named Zhao. “It gives us an opportunity to encircle Taiwan, and then seize this opportunity to seize Taiwan by force. I think we should thank Comrade Pelosi.”

United States Solidarity

Pelosi, the highest-ranking US visitor to Taiwan in 25 years, praised her democracy and pledged American solidarity during her short stop, adding that Chinese anger could not stop world leaders from traveling there.

China summoned the US ambassador to Beijing in protest of her visit and suspended several agricultural imports from Taiwan.

“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make it unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, which Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China. Read more

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“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is critical, and that is the message we carry here today.”

The United States and the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations have warned China not to use Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said earlier this week that Pelosi is entitled to visit Taiwan, stressing that the trip does not constitute a violation of Chinese sovereignty or the longstanding US “one China” policy.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is obligated under US law to provide it with the means to defend itself.

China views US officials’ visits to Taiwan as an encouraging sign for the island’s pro-independence camp. Taiwan rejects China’s claims to sovereignty, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.

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Additional reporting by Yimo Lee and Sarah Wu. Additional reporting by Tony Munro, Ryan Wu and Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing and Fabian Hamacher in Taipei; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.