China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills on Taiwan Strait, says state media

The news comes as China’s People’s Liberation Army announced fresh exercises in the seas and airspace around the self-ruled island

A Taiwan Air Force aircraft lands at Hsinchu Air Base.ANN WANG (REUTERS)

The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state television reported on Sunday, citing a commentator.

The median line in the narrow strait between the island of Taiwan and mainland China is an unofficial line of control that military aircraft and battleships from either side normally do not cross.

The median line has never been legally recognized, and is an “imaginary” line drawn up by the US military for their combat requirements in the previous century, according to the state television commentator.

The news comes as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced fresh military drills on Monday in the seas and airspace around Taiwan. The Eastern Theater Command of the PLA said on social media Weibo that it will practice conducting anti-submarine attacks and sea raids, but no specific location was provided. This comes just a day after the scheduled end of China’s largest ever exercises to protest against last week’s visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The 82-year-old lawmaker spent 19 hours in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, last Wednesday during her Asia-Pacific tour, ignoring the warnings from Chinese President Xi Jinping and even the advice of her own US government. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan infuriated China, which regards the self-ruled island as its own. According to the state-owned Chinese newspaper Global Times, Pelosi’s visit was a “blatant provocation.” In response to the visit, China announced sanctions against Pelosi and her immediate family, and said that it was canceling or suspending dialogue with the US on a number of issues, ranging from military relations to climate change.

Following Pelosi’s visit, more than 100 warplanes as well as over 10 destroyers and frigates conducted joint blockade operations in waters off Taiwan, according to the Xinhua news agency. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Chinese military ships, aircraft and drones had simulated attacks on the island and its navy. In a statement, the ministry said it “detected several batches of Chinese aircraft and warships operating around the Taiwan Strait in the morning, some of which crossed the middle line of the strait.” It said it had sent aircraft and ships to react “appropriately.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had detected 66 Chinese air force planes and 14 Chinese warships conducting activities in and around the Taiwan Strait.

Faced with the growing threats from Beijing, the Taiwanese Armed Forces will carry out two large-scale artillery exercises with live fire next Tuesday and Thursday with the aim of testing their combat readiness, according to the Hong Kong online newspaper South China Morning Post. The media outlet reported that the drills will take place in Fenggang, in the southern county of Pingtung, where infantry troops are stationed. Taiwan’s premier, Su Tseng-chang, accused Beijing of “arrogantly” using military action to disrupt peace.

Despite rising tensions, air traffic at Taoyuan International Airport was returning to normal on Monday. Since the drills began last Thursday, 300 flights have had to be diverted. In the space of four days, more than 200 international flights were canceled, and another 900 were affected.

In addition to the drills in the Taiwan Strait, China announced on Saturday that it will begin new exercises in the waters off the northeast of the country, near the Korean peninsula. The drills in the Bohai Sea will take place between August 8 and September 8, while those in the Yellow Sea began on Sunday and will end on August 15. The China Maritime Safety Administration has issued an alert for ships and restricted access to military vessels.

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