'These military drills are a preview to an invasion that looks more likely than ever,' ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports
World Leaders have urged Beijing to halt provocations around Taiwan, including Japan's defence minister, who said exercises were a 'serious threat' to the country's national security.
It comes after five missiles strayed into Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan protested the missile landings to China as “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
Live fire drills have been launched in six areas surrounding Taiwan and are intended to advertise China's willingness to attack the self-governing island - as it attempts to move away from Chinese rule and secure its independence.
The level of aggression shown on day one of the drills has the entire region braced for what could be an extended period of instability, reports Debi Edward from China
Local media has reported that both South Korea airways and Asiana have temporarily cancelled direct flights into Taiwan.
On Thursday, at least 40 flights to and from Taiwan were cancelled, according to the China Times newspaper.
It cited Taoyuan Airport in the capital, Taipei, as saying cancellations were “not necessarily” related to the military drills.Taiwan's military issued a statement saying its forces are on alert and closely watching the Chinese drills.
It said: "The Ministry of National Defence stresses that it will uphold the principle of preparing for war without seeking war, and with an attitude of not escalating conflict and causing disputes."
Civil defence drills have been held and notices have been placed on designated air raid shelters across the island.
"The three service branches will combine efforts with all the people to jointly safeguard national security and territorial integrity" while adapting to the situation as it develops, the statement continued.
Debi Edward outlines 'China's playbook for invading Taiwan' amid fears of 'reunification by force'
ITV News captured the moment artillery was launched from Pingtan Island, Fujian, less than 80 miles from Taiwan.
It was a "small show of strength in the massive military offensive China launched today that has Taiwan surrounded by warships, tracking fighter jets and monitoring for missile launches," Asia correspondent Debi Edward reports.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the exercises were joint operations focused on “blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, and airspace control.”
Taiwan has put its military on alert and staged civil defence drills, while the US has numerous naval assets in the area.
The drills are due to run from Thursday to Sunday and include missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan's leaders and voters held in 1995 and 1996.
The exercises involved troops from the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Logistic Support Force under the Eastern Theater Command.
China's foreign ministry rejected suggestions the drills were dangerous and blamed the US for the tension.
“China’s practice is in line with international law,” said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
On Wednesday, China banned some imports from Taiwan, including citrus fruit and fish, before flying an additional 27 fighter jets toward the island later that evening.
Why are tensions rising between Taiwan and China?
Ms Pelosi met leaders in Taiwan despite warnings from China this week.
She defended the visit, saying that she and other members of Congress in a visiting delegation are showing they will not abandon their commitment to Taiwan.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined fellow diplomats in calling for China not to use force to disrupt the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Beijing to de-escalate as tensions rose, after Beijing announced it would carry out military exercises near Taiwan.
When ask how she would deal with the growing tensions if she was elected prime minister, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: "Well I do not support China's inflammatory language on this issue, it is perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate."
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