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China begins live-fire military exercises around Taiwan

(CNN) — China fired multiple missiles into waters near the northeast and southwest of Taiwan on Thursday, the island’s Defense Ministry said, as Beijing makes good on its promise that Taipei will pay a price for hosting the US House Speaker. Nancy Pelosi.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement that multiple missiles had been fired into the sea off eastern Taiwan. He said all the missiles hit their target accurately.

“The entire live-fire training mission has been successfully completed and control of the corresponding air and sea area has now been lifted,” the statement said.

Earlier, the Chinese army’s Eastern Theater Command said it conducted long-range live-fire training in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Chinese state media said exercises to simulate an air and sea “blockade” around Taiwan had begun on Wednesday, but offered little hard evidence to support the claim.

Later on Thursday, footage showed military helicopters flying over Pingtan Island, one of Taiwan’s closest points to mainland China.

The military stance was a deliberate show of force after Pelosi left the island Wednesday night for South Korea, one of the final stops on a tour of Asia that ends in Japan this weekend.

Within hours of his departure, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said China sent more than 20 fighter jets through the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the midpoint between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan that Beijing says is does not recognize but generally respects.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said its military remained in a “normal” but cautious posture, calling the live-fire drills an “irrational act” intended to “change the status quo.”

“We are closely monitoring enemy activities around the Taiwan Sea and outlying islands, and will act appropriately,” the ministry said in a statement.

pressure exercises

Chinese military helicopters fly over Pingtan Island in Fujian province on August 4.

Long before Pelosi’s nearly 24-hour visit to Taiwan, China had warned that her presence was not welcome. The ruling Chinese Communist Party claims the autonomous island as its own territory, even though it has never controlled it.

China issued a map showing six areas around Taiwan that would be the site of the drills in the coming days. But on Thursday, the Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau said in a notice that China had added a seventh military exercise area “in the waters around eastern Taiwan” that ships and planes should avoid.

Chinese state media on Thursday described a wide range of objectives for the exercises, including attacks on land and sea targets.

“The exercises (are) focused on key training sessions including joint blockade, attack on sea targets, attack on land targets and airspace control operation, and the joint combat capabilities of the troops were put to the test in the operations. military,” said a Xinhua news agency announcement attributed to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command, which has responsibility for areas near Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the Global Times tabloid said the drills involved some of China’s newest and most sophisticated weapons, including J-20 stealth fighters and DF-17 hypersonic missiles, and that some missiles could be fired on the island, a move that would be extremely provocative.

“The exercises are unprecedented as the PLA’s conventional missiles are expected to fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time,” the Global Times said, citing experts.

“PLA forces will enter areas within 12 nautical miles of the island and the so-called median line will cease to exist.”

Taiwan’s accounts of Chinese military movement, warplanes crossing the median line, and a report by Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency, citing government sources, said that two of the largest warships China’s powerful Type 55 destroyers were sighted Tuesday off the central and southeastern coast of the island, as close as 37 miles (60 kilometers) from land.

But there was little corroboration or firm evidence provided by China to support the kind of claims published in the Global Times.

China’s state television offered videos of fighter jets taking off, ships at sea and missiles in motion, but the dates those images were filmed could not be verified.

Some analysts were skeptical that Beijing could pull off what they were threatening, such as a blockade of Taiwan.

“The official announcement (of the blockade) refers to a few days, which would make it difficult to qualify it in practical terms as a blockade,” said Alessio Patalano, professor of warfare and strategy at King’s College London.

“Lockdowns are difficult to execute and long to implement. This exercise is not that,” he said.

Patalano said the biggest impact of the exercises would be psychological.

“During the time period in question, ships and aircraft are likely to be diverted to avoid the area, but this is a primary goal of the chosen locations: to create disruption, discomfort and fear that the worst is yet to come,” said.

Rerouting of planes and ships

Chinese military helicopters fly over Pingtan Island, one of the closest points in mainland China to Taiwan on August 4, 2022.

China’s retaliatory drills have already caused disruptions to flight and ship schedules in Taiwan, though the island is trying to lessen their impact.

Taiwan’s transport minister said agreements had been reached with Japan and the Philippines to divert 18 international flight routes leaving the island, affecting some 300 flights in total, to avoid PLA live-fire drills.

And on Wednesday, the Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau issued three notices, asking ships to use alternative routes to seven ports around the island.

China’s live-fire drills were also causing concern in Japan.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the drills posed a security threat to his country.

One of the six exercise areas set up by China was near Japan’s Yonaguni Island, part of Okinawa Prefecture, just 68 miles (110 kilometers) off the coast of Taiwan.

That same Chinese exercise zone is also close to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited rocky range known as Diaoyus in China, and over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

“In particular, a training area has been set up in the waters near Japan, and if China were to conduct live ammunition exercises in that area, it could affect the security of Japan and its people,” Matsuno said.

The US military, meanwhile, remained silent on the Chinese exercises and did not provide any answers to questions from CNN on Thursday.

In addition to closely monitoring Chinese military movements around the island, Taiwan also said it would strengthen security against cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.

Taiwanese cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told a news conference on Wednesday that the government had improved security at key infrastructure points and raised the cybersecurity alert level in all government offices.

Taiwan anticipates further “cognitive warfare,” referring to disinformation campaigns used to influence public opinion, Lo said.

CNN’s Wayne Chang and Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

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