A Chinese military jet flies over Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan. AFP
China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days, while announcing sanctions on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her visit to the self-governing island earlier this week.
The official Xinhua News Agency said on Friday that fighters, bombers, destroyers and frigates were all used in what it called "joint blockage operations” taking place in six zones off the coast of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
The military’s Eastern Theater Command also fired new versions of missiles it said hit unidentified targets in the Taiwan Strait "with precision.”
Those included projectiles fired over Taiwan into the Pacific, military officers told state media, in a major ratcheting up of China’s threats to annex the island by force.
The drills, which Xinhua described as being held on an "unprecedented scale," are China's response to a visit this week by Pelosi to Taiwan. She is the highest ranking US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China announced unspecified sanctions on Pelosi and her family. Such sanctions are generally mostly symbolic in nature.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that Pelosi had disregarded China’s serious concerns and resolute opposition to her visit. It called Pelosi’s visit provocative and said it undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China opposes Taiwan having its own engagements with foreign governments.
On the Chinese coast across from Taiwan, tourists gathered on Friday to try to catch a glimpse of any military aircraft heading toward the exercise area.
Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, "Let’s take Taiwan back," looking out into the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan island, a popular scenic spot.
China's insistence that Taiwan is its territory and threat to use force to bring it under its control has featured highly in ruling Communist Party propaganda, the education system and the entirely state-controlled media for the more than seven decades since the sides divided amid civil war in 1949.
Island residents overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China's demands that Taiwan unify with the mainland under Communist control.
On Friday morning, China sent military ships and war planes across the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said, crossing what had for decades been an unofficial buffer zone between China and Taiwan.
Five of the missiles fired by China since the military exercises began Thursday landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said Japan protested the missile landings to China as "serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
Japan's Defense Ministry later said they believe the other four missiles, fired from China’s southeastern coast of Fujian, flew over Taiwan.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan represent a "grave problem” that threatens regional peace and security.
The statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.
Pelosi landed at a Malaysian air force base ahead of meetings with the prime minister and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, state news agency Bernama reported.
"Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said in a short speech during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen. "America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”
China's Customs Administration said it would suspend some citrus fruits and fish imports from Taiwan over alleged "repeated" detection of excessive pesticide residue and positive coronavirus tests on packages; bans shipments of sand to the island.
South Korea's health minister said on Monday authorities will start inspecting hospitals in order to take legal action against trainee doctors who have ignored an ultimatum to end a walkout over government plans to increase medical school admissions.
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