The Chinese military has continued its largest-ever military exercises targeting Taiwan with what the island’s government called a simulated attack, including further raids over the median line and drone flights over Taiwan’s outlying islands.
The global pushback on China’s live fire drills, launched in response to a visit by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan earlier this week, also continued, with denunciations of senior US officials and foreign ministers from Australia and Japan.
Pelosi vehemently objected to Pelosi’s visit, which he said violated the “one China” principle, a domestic policy that outlines the government’s territorial claim to democratic and de facto independent Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Saturday it had sighted People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planes and ships in the Taiwan Strait, believing they were simulating an attack on the main island.
“Multiple batches of Chinese communist aircraft and ships operating around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line,” it said, referring to the unofficial border in the waters between China and Taiwan.
Chinese warships and drones simulated attacks on American and Japanese warships, off the east coast of Taiwan and close to Japanese islands, Reuters reported, citing sources.
Taiwan also said it had fired flares for several nights to repel PLA drones flying over the Kinmen Islands and unidentified planes flying over the Matsu Islands. The archipelagos are located a few kilometers from the Chinese mainland coast.
The news of the drills came when the official Taiwanese media outlet, CNA, reported that Ou Yang Li-hsing, the vice president of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense’s research and development unit, had been found dead in a hotel room after suffering a heart attack. . It said there were no signs of breaking into the 57-year-old’s room and that his family said he has had heart problems in the past.
The live fire drills began Thursday, shortly after Pelosi left Taipei, and targeted six major areas of the sea around Taiwan, including in territorial waters. They also included 11 ballistic missiles fired at or over the main island of Taiwan and landing in the surrounding seas and in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
In recent days, PLA officials have praised their exercises, claiming they are a demonstration of blockade tactics, which could one day really be imposed on Taiwan. The Chinese government does not rule out the use of force to annex Taiwan.
Taiwan’s foreign minister on Friday defended Pelosi’s visit as “important” in raising awareness of Taiwan as a democracy. He told the BBC that Beijing was trying to change the status quo, which Taiwan wanted to maintain.
“Taiwan has no jurisdiction over mainland China and the People’s Republic of China has no jurisdiction over Taiwan. That is the reality.”
Pelosi’s week of retaliation also targeted the US, with sanctions against Pelosi and her family, and major agreements or collaborations suspended or canceled, including climate crisis talks and efforts to ensure bilateral military communications.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that China should not hold talks on important global issues such as the climate crisis “hostage”, adding to comments from US special envoy on climate change, John Kerry, that it is not punishes the US, but “it punishes the world”.
Relations between China and the US and its allies have plummeted further during the exercises.
In a joint statement following a meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting, Blinken and Australia and Japan Foreign Ministers Penny Wong and Yoshimasa Hayashi urged China called for an immediate end to the exercises and condemned the use of ballistic missiles.
The senior officials “expressed concern at the recent actions by the People’s Republic of China that have serious implications for international peace and stability, including the use of large-scale military exercises.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were leaving a plenary meeting in Cambodia just as Hayashi was speaking on Friday. Wang also held a rare press conference late Friday, where he accused Blinken of spreading misinformation.
The exercises around Taiwan are expected to be largely completed on Monday, but further exercises in the Yellow Sea have been announced starting next week.
Taiwan has also been hit by cyber-attacks this week, including the websites of the president’s office and the ministries of foreign affairs and defense, as well as displays in 7-Eleven stores and some train stations.
Wu Min-hsuan, the head of Taiwan-based cyber monitoring group Doublethink Labs, said the attacks were a demonstration of the psychological and cyber warfare that Taiwan could expect in the event of an attack or invasion.
“They want to create an image that says your security is weak and we are powerful,” he said.
Wu said there were serious concerns about the Chinese government’s cyber warfare, but this week’s attacks were mild and exposed the weak digital connections Taiwan had to address.
Like the media of the world, people in Taiwan are also watching. But Li Ya Chen, a 35-year-old journalist who spent two years in Shanghai between 2017 and 2019, said people in Taiwan were “not too concerned” despite Beijing’s hostile response.
“Pelosi’s visit last week showed that Taiwan ultimately wants good relations with the US, and her journey could help increase Taiwan’s international support. We are already used to Beijing’s anger and we are well aware of the danger,” she said.
“The world thinks Taiwan is the most dangerous place on Earth right now, but for most of us here, life goes on.”
Additional reporting by Rebecca Ratcliffe and agencies