China fired ballistic missiles during unprecedented military drills around Taiwan on Thursday, in response to Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taipei, the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said that several Dongfeng ballistic missiles were fired in waters close to the Matsu islands at around 2pm GMT.
Officials in Taiwan said Beijing’s actions violated UN rules and invaded its territorial space. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party said China’s drills on busy international waterways and aviation routes amounted to “irresponsible, illegitimate behavior”.
They are China’s largest ever military drills in the Taiwan Straits and Beijing said they would continue until Sunday.
Officials in Taipei also claimed a drone from mainland China was found hovering over Taiwan’s outlying group of islands Kinmen.
The websites of Taiwan’s defense and foreign ministries as well as the presidential office were also under cyber attack, the country’s cabinet spokesperson said.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV confirmed the drills had begun. The drills would include live firing on waters and in airspace surrounding Taiwan, state media reported. The last time China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan was in 1996.
Around noon, both China and Taiwan stationed their military vessels in close proximity to each other, sparking concerns of a military stand-off. Chinese navy ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line several times, a Taiwanese source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
A Taiwanese source said: “They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us”.
China maintains its differences with Taiwan are an internal affair, and has asserted that it can take the self-ruled nation by force.
“Our punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards, external forces is reasonable, lawful,” the Beijing-based Taiwan Affairs office said.
Tensions have peaked after the visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. An incandescent Beijing called the visit a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” act.
Ms Pelosi is the highest-level US visitor to Taiwan in 25 years. She stayed in the country for less than 24 hours as part of a tour of Asia.
Anger from China could not stop world leaders from traveling there, she said.
Washington has defended Ms Pelosi’s visit amid backlash from Beijing and said that the top US official “was within her rights to visit Taiwan” and added that the visit did not amount to a violation of Chinese sovereignty or America’s longstanding “one-China” policy.