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Qatar tribune
dpa Beijing The Chinese military held major air and sea drills in the waters surrounding Taiwan on Thursday, shortly after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended a visit to the island which has drawn Beijing’s ire.China’s eastern military command said that at about 1 pm (0500 GMT) units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “implemented long-range fire live firing training in the Taiwan Strait and conducted precise strikes on specific areas in the eastern part of the Taiwan Strait,” which separates mainland China from the island.“Precision strikes” were also made in the east for practice, Chinese state television reported.The Taiwanese Defence Ministry said shortly after 3 pm that the PLA had fired “several Tongfeng-class guided missiles” into waters north-east and south-west of Taiwan on Thursday afternoon.A ministry spokesperson in Taipei said that Taiwan’s armed forces had tracked the firings in real time. The ministry condemned what it called “this irrational action that is undermining regional peace.” Taiwan’s Defence Ministry earlier said that Taipei’s armed forces were on combat readiness, monitoring all six manoeuvre areas around the democratic island republic as well as islands further offshore.The ministry noted that Taiwan is prepared for conflict, but is not seeking it - but will defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.The live-fire exercises, which began on Tuesday, started in full at six locations surrounding Taiwan, coming as close as 9 nautical miles (16.7 kilometres) from its two major sea ports in Keelung and Kaohsiung. For the first time, the declared areas where the exercises are being held partly cross into Taiwan’s territorial waters.The exercises were set to end on Sunday.Chinese state media cited China’s military and various experts as saying that the manoeuvres were practice for imposing an aerial and maritime blockade of the self-governing island, and even for a potential invasion.Chinese military representatives have not ruled out that the PLA could fire missiles over Taiwan for the first time.The drills are apparent retaliation for the visit by Pelosi, the third-highest ranking official in Washington.Pelosi’s visit fuelled tensions between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, which Beijing’s ruling Communist Party views as part of its territory, claiming that reunification is inevitable.According to Chinese sources, the early announcement of the manoeuvres on Tuesday evening - immediately after Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan - was intended to give civilian vessels and aircraft sufficient time to reroute to avoid the area around the island.A confrontation between China and Taiwan due to miscalculations by forces on either side could draw the US into the conflict. The United States officially recognizes the so-called One China policy but is also committed to Taiwan’s defence, which so far has meant supplying weapons.“We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” the US State Department says on its website in a fact sheet on Taiwan relations updated at the end of May.However, US President Joe Biden has made reference to the obligation the US has to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.Meanwhile Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi cancelled a planned meeting with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry confirmed in Beijing on Thursday.Wang was due to meet Hayashi on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying justified the cancellation with China’s anger at Japan’s position on the escalation around Taiwan, together with the United States and the EU within the framework of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized countries.
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