Taiwan said Saturday that after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei angered Beijing, Chinese warships and planes crossed the centerline of the Taiwan Strait in what appeared to be a Chinese military exercise simulating an attack on the self-governing island.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Taiwan’s armed forces sounded the alarm, dispatched land, sea and air patrols and activated land-based missile systems in response to China’s drills. As of 5 p.m., 20 Chinese aircraft and 14 ships continued to conduct sea and air exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
The ministry said China’s declaration of a no-go zone for other ships and aircraft during the exercise “severely undermined the peace”. The statement stressed that the Taiwan military does not seek war, but will make corresponding preparations and responses.
China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Saturday that it had conducted military exercises in the sea and airspace north, southwest and east of Taiwan as planned, focusing on “testing its capabilities in land strikes and sea attacks”.
China launched live-fire military exercises after Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week, saying it violated the “one China” policy. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that can be annexed by force if necessary, and sees visits by foreign officials as a recognition of its sovereignty.
The Taiwanese military also said it spotted four drones flying off the coast of Kinmen County late Friday and fired warning bombs in response.
According to Taiwan’s Kinmen Defense Command, the four drones, which Taiwan believes are Chinese, were spotted in the waters surrounding the Kinmen Islands and the nearby islands of Lieyu and Beiding.
Kinmen, also known as Kinmen, is a group of islands just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of Xiamen, a Chinese coastal city in Fujian province, in the Taiwan Strait, separating the two sides divided in the 1949 civil war.
“Our government and military are closely monitoring China’s military exercises and information warfare operations, and are 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 of the security situation in the region,” she added.
Chinese military drills began on Thursday and are expected to continue through Sunday. The drills so far have included missile strikes against targets in Taiwan’s northern and southern waters, echoing China’s last major military exercises in 1995 and 1996 aimed at terrorizing Taiwan’s leaders and voters.
Taiwan has put its military on alert and held civil defense exercises, while the United States has deployed a large number of naval assets in the region.
The Biden administration and Pelosi said the U.S. remains committed to a “one China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the Chinese government but allows informal and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.
China also cut off defense and climate talks with the United States and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for the visit.
Pelosi said on Friday in Tokyo, the final stop of her Asia trip, that China would not be able to isolate Taiwan by preventing U.S. officials from traveling there.
Pelosi has long been an advocate for human rights in China. In 1991, she visited Tiananmen Square in Beijing with other lawmakers in support of democracy, and two years later, protesters in Tiananmen Square were subjected to a bloody military crackdown.
Meanwhile, cyberattacks aimed at taking down the website of Taiwan’s foreign ministry doubled between Thursday and Friday compared with similar attacks before Pelosi’s visit, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported. The ministry did not specify the origin of the attack.
The websites of other ministries and government agencies, such as the Home Office, faced similar attacks, the report said.
Distributed denial of service attacks are designed to overload a website with requests for information, eventually crashing the website and making it inaccessible to other users.
Also on Saturday, the Central News Agency reported that Ouyang Lixing, Taiwan’s deputy head of the research and development department at the Defense Ministry, was found dead in a hotel room after suffering a heart attack. He is 57 years old and has overseen several missile production projects.
He was on a business trip in a hotel room in the southern county of Pingtung, and there was no sign of a break-in, the report said.
Taiwanese overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of Taiwan’s de facto independence and reject China’s demands for Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland under Communist Party control.
Globally, most countries adhere to the “One China” policy, which is a sine qua non for maintaining diplomatic relations with Beijing.
Any company that does not recognize Taiwan as part of China often faces a swift backlash, often with Chinese consumers pledging to boycott its products.
On Friday, Mars Wrigley, maker of the Snickers candy bar, apologized after posting a video and material of South Korean boy band BTS that once referred to Taiwan as a country, quickly drawing criticism from users in China .
The company issued a statement on its Weibo account expressing “deep apologies”.
“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and conducts business in strict accordance with local Chinese laws and regulations,” the statement said.
In a separate post, the company added that “there is only one China” and said “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”