In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China fired a barrage of ballistic missiles into the waters around the self-ruled island as it launched large-scale military exercises.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected 22 Chinese fighter jets briefly crossing the Taiwan Strait’s “median line” during Thursday’s exercises, and Taipei scrambled fighter jets in response.
“Air defense missile systems” were deployed to track the jets and radio warnings were broadcast, Taiwan said.
Chinese state media said the live-fire drills in six areas around the island got under way at noon local time and will continue until the same time on Sunday.
Pelosi was the highest-profile US official to visit Taiwan in decades, defying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory.
China, which had threatened “serious consequences” over Pelosi’s visit, claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island.
Pelosi’s visit to the island on Wednesday was the first by a sitting speaker of the House, the third most senior politician in the US, in 25 years.
The exercises have ratcheted up tensions in the region, with Japan saying several missiles fired by Chinese forces landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, issued a statement late on Thursday calling on the international community to help end China’s “unilateral and irrational military actions”. She also said Taiwan would not provoke conflicts, but would firmly defend its sovereignty and national security.
“With China initiating military exercises in areas around Taiwan today, we call on Beijing to act with reason & exercise restraint. Taiwan will not escalate conflict, but we will resolutely defend our sovereignty, our security & our democracy,” read her tweet.