Taiwan says on Saturday it detected “several” Chinese aircraft and naval vessels participating in military exercises around the Taiwan Strait in what could be a possible simulated attack on the island.
The ministry said some planes and ships have crossed the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from mainland China.
“Our military has sent out alerts, deployed air patrol and naval vessels, and activated land-based missile systems in response to the situation,” the ministry said.
China has not yet made any statements about the purpose of Saturday’s military exercises.
The news follows a series of military exercises China has been holding around Taiwan since Thursday, following the controversial visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-governing democratic island earlier this week.
The Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan its territory, though it has never controlled it, and has long vowed to “reunite” the island with mainland China — by force if necessary.
Pelosi ignored her furious opposition to her visit by landing in Taipei on Tuesday evening as part of a larger Asia tour that concluded with a final stop in Japan on Friday.
But the full ramifications of her visit are only now coming to light as China halts cooperation in several areas, deteriorates already tense US-China ties and ramps up exercises in the air and waters around Taiwan.
According to the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, 68 Chinese warplanes were reported in the Taiwan Strait on Friday. Of those, 49 entered the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, a buffer of airspace commonly referred to as ADIZ. That was just a few planes short of last year’s record when 56 Chinese warplanes entered the ADIZ on the same day.
Nineteen of the warplanes also crossed the median line separating the Taiwan Strait on Friday, the ministry said.
On Thursday, China launched 11 ballistic missiles, some of which flew over the island of Taiwan and landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, prompting Tokyo to file a formal complaint with Beijing. That was the first time China sent missiles over the island.
Also on Thursday, two Chinese drones flew near Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, prompting the Japanese self-defense force to scramble fighter jets in response.
According to Chinese state media, the exercises will last until Sunday local time in Beijing.
Japan and other G7 economies have urged China to halt its exercises in the strait and maintain the status quo in the region.
Beijing responded by lashing out diplomatically, canceling future phone calls between Chinese and US defense leaders, annual naval meetings between the two countries and scheduled meetings between Chinese and Japanese officials.
China’s foreign ministry on Friday announced a series of countermeasures against the US, including sanctions against Pelosi and her immediate family.
China has also suspended bilateral climate talks; cooperation on the repatriation of illegal immigrants, cross-border crime and drug operations; and legal aid in criminal matters.
The White House on Friday accused China of “punishing the entire world” by ending climate cooperation, while the Defense Department said China “chose to overreact and cancel the speaker’s visit.” as a pretext for provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.”
John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said not all communications between the US and China had been halted and certain channels between senior leaders remained open — but added that the suspensions were still an “irresponsible act.”