Taiwan said it spotted “multiple” Chinese aircraft and naval ships taking part in military exercises around the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, in what could be a possible potential attack against the island.
The ministry said some planes and ships crossed the sensitive center line in the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the Chinese mainland.
“Our military has broadcast alerts, deployed combat air patrols and naval vessels and activated land-based missile systems in response to the situation,” the ministry said.
The statement did not specify the exact number of Chinese planes and ships that were monitored.
The Chinese military has yet to issue a statement on the purpose of Saturday’s exercises.
The news follows a series of military exercises that China has conducted around Taiwan since Thursday after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to the self-governing democratic island earlier this week.
The Chinese Communist Party views Taiwan as its own territory, although it has never controlled it, and has long vowed to “reunify” the island with the Chinese mainland — by force if necessary.
Pelosi shrugged off her angry opposition to her visit by landing in Taipei on Tuesday evening as part of a larger Asian tour that concluded Friday with a final stop in Japan.
But the full results of her visit are only now beginning to emerge, with China stepping up military exercises in the skies and waters around Taiwan and halting cooperation with the United States on various issues.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that 68 Chinese warplanes were registered in the Taiwan Strait. Of these, 49 of those entered the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone – a buffer zone of airspace commonly referred to as an Air Defense Identification Zone. This was just a few aircraft short of the record set last year when 56 Chinese warplanes entered the ADIZ area on the same day.
On Friday, 19 of the warplanes also crossed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait, 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. This was the first time that China had sent missiles over the island.
Also on Thursday, two Chinese drones flew near Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, prompting Japan’s Air Self-Defense Forces to scramble fighter jets in response.
The exercises are scheduled to continue until Sunday local time in Beijing, according to Chinese state media.
The deteriorating situation in the Taiwan Strait caused a diplomatic storm, with China attacking countries that criticized their exercises and calling on some regional powers to de-escalate.
Tensions rose at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia this week, where members originally expected three main topics to be discussed: the Myanmar crisis, the South China Sea and the war in Ukraine.
But Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan added a “fourth hot stone… which led to heated discussions on cross-strait relations,” Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon told a news conference Saturday in Phnom Penh.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken attended the ASEAN meeting; On Thursday, Wang denounced Pelosi’s visit as demonstrating the “bankruptcy” and credibility of US politics, calling it “crazy, irresponsible and highly irrational behaviour.”
A day later, after Beijing fired its missiles at Taiwan, Blinken said China “chose to overreact and use Speaker Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.”
Sokhon described Saturday’s meeting as lively, saying he should invite all ministers to speak in a calm, dignified, polite, civil and diplomatic manner.
“There were strong arguments,” he said, “but in our opinion, it is much better to exchange words than by less friendly means.”
Japan and other G7 economies have urged China to stop military exercises and maintain the status quo in the region.
Beijing did not respond to those calls. Instead, it responded by canceling future phone calls between Chinese and American defense leaders and the two countries’ annual naval meetings. It also canceled planned meetings between Chinese and Japanese officials.
China also summoned the ambassadors of the United States, Japan and various European countries.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced a set of countermeasures against the United States, including sanctions against Pelosi and her immediate family.
China also suspended bilateral climate talks and suspended cooperation on issues including repatriation of illegal immigrants and investigation of cross-border crimes and drug operations.
“We should not hold cooperation hostage on matters of global concern because of the differences between our two countries,” Blinken told reporters on Saturday, speaking in the Philippine capital, Manila.
He added that China’s decision to suspend climate talks “could have lasting consequences for the future of the region, and the future of our planet,” and would punish the developing world rather than the United States.