Taiwan accuses Beijing of 'simulating an attack' amid more Chinese military drills around Strait

Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports from Pingtan Island on what could happen next amid China's military intimidation of the island

Taiwan has accused China of appearing to simulate an attack on the self-governed island after multiple Chinese warships and aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

China said Taiwan must be taught a lesson following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to capital Taipei in support of Taiwan's independence, which infuriated Beijing.

Taiwan's armed forces issued an alert, dispatched air and naval patrols around the island, and activated land-based missile systems in response to the Chinese exercises, the Ministry of Defence said.

As of 5pm local time, 20 Chinese aircraft and 14 ships continued to carry out sea and air exercises around the Taiwan Strait, it added.

Zones declared by China as no-go areas during the exercises for other ships and aircraft had “seriously damaged the peace," the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence said.

It emphasized that Taiwan's military does not seek war, but would prepare and respond for it accordingly.

ITV News captured the moment artillery was launched from Pingtan Island, Fujian, 80 miles west of Taiwan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China's drills had put the entire region at risk and said allies and partners are "deeply concerned about the destabilising and dangerous actions".

Every evening on Pingtan Island for the past few days, ITV News has seen fighter jets return from their incursions across the Taiwan Strait in what are a key part of China's military intimidation of the island.

China's Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Saturday that it had carried out military exercises as planned in the sea and airspace to the north, southwest, and east of Taiwan. According to state broadcaster CCTV, Saturday's exercise focused on "testing the capabilities" of its land strike and sea assault systems.

China launched live-fire military drills following Ms Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan earlier this week, saying it violated the “one-China” policy.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, left, gestures while speaking with Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to leave Taipei. Credit: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP

Chinese officials see the island as a breakaway province to be annexed by force if necessary, and considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognising its sovereignty.

Taiwan's army also said it detected four unmanned aerial vehicles flying in the vicinity of the offshore county of Kinmen on Friday night and fired warning flares in response.

The four drones, which Taiwan believed were Chinese, were spotted over waters around the Kinmen island group and the nearby Lieyu Island and Beiding islet, according to Taiwan’s Kinmen Defence Command.

“Our government & military are closely monitoring China’s military exercises & information warfare operations, ready to respond as necessary,” Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said in a tweet.

“I call on the international community to support democratic Taiwan & halt any escalation of the regional security situation,” she added.

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The Chinese military exercises began Thursday and are expected to last until Sunday.

So far, the drills have included missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills in 1995 and 1996 aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.

Taiwan has put its military on alert and staged civil defence drills, while the US has deployed numerous naval assets in the area.

A People's Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen at the rear. Credit: China’s Xinhua News Agency via AP

The Biden administration and Ms Pelosi have said the US remains committed to a “one-China” policy, which recognises Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defence ties with Taipei. The administration had discouraged but did not prevent Ms Pelosi from visiting.

Beijing imposed sanctions on Ms Pelosi in retaliation for the visit and has cut off defence and climate change talks with the US - something that threatens many countries across the world.

Ms Pelosi said Friday in Tokyo, the last stop of her Asia tour, that China will not be able to isolate Taiwan by preventing US officials from travelling there.

The US house speaker has been a long-time advocate of human rights in China. She, along with other lawmakers, visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters at the square.

Meanwhile, cyberattacks aimed at bringing down the website of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had doubled between Thursday to Friday, compared to similar attacks ahead of Ms Pelosi’s visit, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The ministry did not specify the origin of the attack.