CHINA has launched its largest-ever military exercises in six areas encircling Taiwan, a day after United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in defiance to threats of “serious consequences” from the Chinese government.
A total of 27 Chinese warplanes, including 16 Russian-made Su-30 jets, entered Taiwan’s air defence zone on Wednesday, shortly after Pelosi and her delegation flew out of the country.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV confirmed the drills, which would include live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan, had begun and would end at 0400 GMT on Sunday.
Taiwan officials have said the drills are an invasion of its territorial space and violate United Nations rules. China is conducting drills on the busiest international waterways and aviation routes and that is “irresponsible, illegitimate behaviour,” Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said.
The country’s military added that Taiwan is not looking for a fight with China, but would not shy away from one either, as it is resolved to uphold Taiwan’s sovereignty, liberty and democracy.
“We fear no threat or challenges. We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one. We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region’s stability,” the army added.
Taiwan and mainland China split during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the region as part of its territory and has not ruled out using military force to take it.
Pelosi who is second in line to the presidency, becomes the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years and China views this visit as indicative of US support for Taiwan’s independence.
Speaking ahead of Pelosi’s trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang, said the visit would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces”.
US House Speaker reiterated during her visit that the US stands with the people of Taiwan and all those committed to Democracy and human rights, and would continue to support the country on matters of security and stability, economic growth and governance.
“Make no mistake: America remains unwavering in our commitment to the people of Taiwan– now and for decades to come,” Pelosi tweeted on Wednesday.
She visited the National Human Rights Museum in tribute to “heroes” who suffered and fought for Taiwan’s democracy.
Pelosi was also conferred with the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon title by President Tsai Ing-wen, during her less than 24 hours visit, before she jetted out of the country to South Korea Wednesday evening.
However, China harshly criticised Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, saying that her actions are a clear violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“What Pelosi has done is by no means a defense or protection of democracy, but a provocation and violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a daily press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.