By John Efosa
Chinese Warships and Aircraft conducted military drills in waters near Taiwan on Friday.
Taiwan Defense Ministry state this as tensions escalated in the region following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the Island this week.
The Ministry said Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces crossed the median line – the halfway point between the Island and Mainland China in a move it called a “highly provocative act.”
The line has previously been an informal but largely respected border of control between Beijing and Taipei.
“Taiwan’s military responded with radio warnings and put air patrol forces, naval ships and shore-based missile systems on alert,” the Ministry added.
On Friday, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said the Island represented “freedom and democracy,” and that “the evil neighbor next door flexed its muscles on our doorstep and arbitrarily sabotaged (one of) the busiest waterways in the world with military exercises.”
The skies and waters around Taiwan have become a focal point as Beijing ramps up tensions not only with Taiwan, but with neighboring Japan, which lodged a formal protest with China after five projectiles landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The missiles were among a number launched by Beijing Thursday – some of which flew over Taiwan – as Pelosi made her way to Tokyo where she met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday.
China has previously fired missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan – a democratic Island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party regards as its territory, despite having never controlled it – most notably during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in the 1990s.
But missiles flying over the Island marked a significant escalation, with US officials warning there may be more to come.
“We anticipated that China might take steps like this – in fact, I described them for you in quite some detail just the other day,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “We also expect that these actions will continue and that the Chinese will continue to react in the coming days.”
A US aircraft carrier will stay in the area around Taiwan for several more days to “monitor the situation,” Kirby added.
On Friday, Kishida said the Chinese military drills were “a serious issue concerning the security of our country and its people” and called for an immediate halt to the exercises. Japan and the US would “work together to maintain stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
Speaking in Tokyo on Friday, Pelosi accused China of trying “to isolate Taiwan,” pointing to the Island’s exclusion from international groups like the World Health Organization.
“They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there,” she said.
She added that her visit to Taiwan had been about maintaining the status quo, not changing it.
Later on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was imposing sanctions on Pelosi and her immediate family for “seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs (and) seriously undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China started military drills around the Island on Thursday, firing multiple missiles toward waters near Northeastern and Southwestern Taiwan the day after Pelosi’s departure.
A Chinese military expert confirmed on state broadcaster CCTV that the conventional missiles flew over Taiwan’s Main Island, including airspace covered by Taiwanese defense missiles.
“We hit the targets under the observation of US Aegis combat system, which means the Chinese military has solved the difficulties of hitting long-range targets on waters,” said Maj. Gen. Meng Xiangqing, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University in Beijing.
In a statement late Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the missiles had traveled above the atmosphere and therefore posed no risk to the Island.
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