New Delhi: China on Thursday began its military exercises encircling Taiwan, news agency AFP reported citing state media. The drill is touted to be its largest-ever in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island.
In response to it, the island nation’s military stated that Taiwan was “preparing for war without seeking war”, AFP reported. Taiwan’s defence ministry said it is closely watching the drills and that the island was prepared for conflict, but would not seek it.
China On Nancy Pelosi’s Visit
Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan Wednesday in a visit that defied a series of increasing threats from China which views the island as its territory.
The House speaker who is second in line to the presidency was the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
According to AFP, she declared that her presence made it “unequivocally clear” that the US would “not abandon” a democratic ally like Taiwan.
With this, Beijing vowed “punishment” for those that had offended it as it announced military drills in the seas around Taiwan — some of the world’s busiest waterways.
According to an announcement in state media, the exercises will involve “training activities including live-fire drills”.
The exercises take place in multiple zones surrounding Taiwan — at some points within just 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the island’s shore — and will conclude at midday on Sunday, AFP reported.
Missiles To Fly Over Taiwan For First Time
State-run tabloid the Global Times cited military analysts who said that the exercises were “unprecedented” and that missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time.
“This is the first time the PLA will launch live long-range artillery across the Taiwan Straits,” the newspaper stated referring to China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The drills taking place since last Tuesday set the stage for the latest exercises as Beijing’s Xinhua news agency reported they had simulated a “joint blockade” of Taiwan.
Taiwanese capital Taipei condemned the plans, cautioning that the exercises threaten the security of the East Asia region.
“Some of the areas of China’s drills breach into… (Taiwan’s) territorial waters,” defence ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said at a press conference Wednesday, as quoted by AFP. “This is an irrational move to challenge the international order.”
Chinese Drills In ‘Preparation For Actual Combat’
Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau on Wednesday issued warnings to ships in northern, eastern and southern areas ahead of the drills, asking them to use alternative routes.
“Ships are urged to avoid areas of the military drills and use alternative routes,” the bureau said.
AFP reported a Chinese military source as saying that the 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, as per the agency.
The conflict arises from the fact that Beijing views the self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to seize it even by force if necessary. Meanwhile, the already tense relationship between Washington and Beijing has deteriorated further over China’s claim over Taiwan.
(With Agency Inputs)
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