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On Thursday, China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships, kicking off its largest-ever military exercise around Taiwan. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits the island.

Pelosi is the most high-profile U.S. official to visit Taiwan in years, ignoring a series of harsh threats from Beijing, which considers the self-governing island its territory.

In retaliation, China has conducted a series of exercises around Taiwan, spanning some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, some just 12 miles from Taiwan’s coast.

The Chinese military said the exercise involved a “conventional missile fire attack” in the waters east of Taiwan.

The purpose is to test the accuracy of the missiles and their ability to prevent an enemy from entering or taking control of an area, Col. Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement.

Taiwan said the Chinese military had fired several Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles and condemned the exercise as an “irrational act that undermines regional peace.”

Television footage showed the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has begun conducting live-fire exercises, including live ammunition, in the waters and airspace around Hong Kong's Taiwan Island.
In Hong Kong, China, on August 4, 2022, TV screens show Chinese troops starting exercises, including live fire in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, according to Chinese state television.


Taipei did not say where the missiles landed or whether they flew over the island.

An AFP reporter saw several small projectiles flying into the sky on the border island of Pingtan, followed by white smoke and a loud roar.

On the mainland, said to be China’s closest point to Taiwan, AFP saw a group of five military helicopters flying at a relatively low altitude near a popular tourist attraction.

Reuters quoted a Taiwanese source briefed on the exercise as saying that Chinese naval ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the centerline of the Taiwan Strait several times.

Taiwan has sent jets and deployed missile systems to monitor the many Chinese planes crossing the border.

“They were flying in and out again and again. They continued to harass us,” its source said, Reuters reported.

Beijing said the drills would end at noon on Sunday.

The Global Times, a Chinese nationalist state-run tabloid, quoted military analysts as saying the drills were “unprecedented” and that missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time.

Beijing argued the drills were “necessary and just,” blaming the U.S. and its allies for the escalation.

“In the current battle over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the United States is the provocateur and China is the victim,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing on Wednesday.

A Chinese military source also told AFP that the exercise would “prepare for actual combat”.

The source said: “If the Taiwan military deliberately contacts the PLA and accidentally shoots, the PLA will take severe countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Taiwan side.”

The drills are taking place on some of the busiest shipping routes on Earth, which are used to supply global markets with vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in the heart of the East Asian factory.

The Taiwan Sea Port Authority has issued warnings to ships to avoid the area where China exercises.

Taiwan’s cabinet said the exercise would disrupt 18 international air routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).

Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived under the possibility of invasion, but the threat has intensified under Xi Jinping, the most confident ruler of China’s generation.

Analysts say China’s leadership is eager to flex its muscles ahead of a key ruling party meeting this fall, where Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.

“China’s announced military exercises show a clear escalation of China’s existing baseline of military activity around Taiwan and the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996,” said Amanda Xiao, senior analyst for China at the International Crisis Group.

“Beijing is sending a signal that it rejects Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

Still, analysts told AFP that China’s goal is not to escalate the situation beyond its control — at least for now.

“The last thing Xi Jinping wants is an unexpected war,” said Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-Sen University.

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