BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan said Saturday that China’s military exercises appear to simulate an attack on the self-governing island, after multiple Chinese warships and planes crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait following a visit by the president of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taipei, which angered Beijing.
The Taiwanese military issued an alert, mobilized air and naval patrols around the entire island and activated land-based missile systems in response to the Chinese maneuvers, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense said on Twitter.
China’s Defense Ministry explained in a statement on Saturday that it carried out its military exercises as planned in sea and air spaces to the north, southwest and east of Taiwan, with the aim of “testing the capabilities” of its ground attack systems and maritime assault.
China began its operation, which included live fire, after Pelosi’s visit to the island in the middle of the week, alleging that the official had violated the “one China” policy. Beijing considers the island a breakaway province that must be annexed, by force if necessary, and sees the visit of foreign officials to the territory as recognition of its sovereignty.
The Taiwanese military also said it detected four unmanned aircraft flying near the Kinmen region on Friday night, according to a report by Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
The four drones, which Taiwan believes to be Chinese, were spotted over the waters around the Kinmen Archipelago, nearby Lieyu Island and Beiding Islet, according to the Kinmen Defense Command.
The Taiwanese military fired warning flares in response.
Kinmen, also known as Quemoy, is a group of islands just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province, in the Taiwan Strait that divides the two parts that separated in the middle of a civil war in 1949.
“Our government and military are closely monitoring China’s military exercises and information warfare operations, ready to respond if necessary,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in a tweet.
“I call on the international community to support democratic Taiwan and stop any escalation in the regional security situation,” he added.
The Chinese maneuvers began on Thursday and are expected to end on Sunday. The exercises so far have included missile strikes on targets in the north and south of the island. This was reminiscent of the last great Chinese drill, between 1995 and 1996, with which Beijing tried to intimidate the leaders and voters of the territory.
Both the Joe Biden administration and Pelosi have said the United States remains committed to a “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal and defense relations with Taipei. The White House advised against Pelosi’s visit, but did not prevent it.
China called off defense talks with Washington and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in response to the hearing.
Meanwhile, cyberattacks trying to crash Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry website doubled between Thursday and Friday, compared with similar attacks before Pelosi’s visit, according to the country’s Central News Agency. The ministry did not specify the origin of the attack.
Other ministries and government agencies, such as the Interior Ministry, suffered similar attacks on their websites, the report added.
Taiwanese are overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the status quo of the island’s de facto independence and reject Chinese demands to unify with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
Globally, most countries subscribe to the “one China” policy, which is a requirement for maintaining diplomatic relations with Beijing.