China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships on Thursday as it held its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan, a show of force sparked by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
Pelosi was the highest-profile US official to visit Taiwan in years, defying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the self-ruled island as its territory.
In retaliation, China launched a series of exercises in multiple zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the island’s shore.
The drills began around 12 noon local time (0400 GMT), and involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.
Taiwan said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles “in several batches” and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”.
Taipei did not say where the missiles landed or whether they flew over the island.
But Japan, a key US ally, said that of the nine missiles it had detected, four were “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island”
Tokyo has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the exercises, with Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi saying five of the missiles were believed to have landed in his country’s exclusive economic zone.
Taipei’s defence ministry said it had detected 22 Chinese fighter jets briefly crossing the Taiwan Strait’s “median line” during Thursday’s exercises.