the island as its territory. In retaliation, China launched a series of drills in several areas around Taiwan, straddling some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and in some places just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the island’s shore.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” White House spokesman John Kirby said. , to journalists.
“The temperature is quite high”, but the tensions “can go down very easily by simply asking the Chinese to stop these very aggressive military exercises”, he added.
The drills began around 12:00 p.m. local time (0400 GMT) and involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.
Taiwan said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles “in multiple batches” and condemned the drills as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”.
Taipei did not say where the missiles landed or whether they flew over the island.
But Japan, a key US ally, said of the nine missiles it had detected, four were believed to have “flew over the main island of Taiwan”.
Tokyo lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing against the drills, with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi saying five of the missiles would have landed in his country’s exclusive economic zone.
Taipei’s defense ministry said it detected 22 Chinese warplanes briefly crossing the “middle line” of the Taiwan Strait during exercises on Thursday.
AFP reporters on the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles fly through the sky followed by plumes of white smoke and thuds.
On the mainland, at what is said to be China’s closest point to Taiwan, AFP saw a batch of five military helicopters hovering at a relatively low altitude near a popular tourist spot.
Beijing said the drills would last until noon Sunday.
Beijing has defended the exercises as “necessary and fair”, blaming the escalation on the United States and its allies.
“Faced with this blatant provocation, we must take legitimate and necessary countermeasures to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular briefing on Thursday. .
Military analysts told state broadcaster CCTV in Beijing that the aim was to practice a possible blockade of the island and contain its pro-independence forces.
“The goal is to show that the PLA is capable of controlling all exits from the island of Taiwan, which will be a great deterrent for the breakaway ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” Zhang Junshe said. , senior researcher at the Naval Research Institute of China.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had reached out to Beijing “at all levels of government” in recent days to appeal for calm and stability.
“I really hope that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek an excuse to increase its aggressive military activity,” Blinken told ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), made up of of 10 members, in Phnom Penh.
– Ships warned, flights disrupted –
Speaking at the same meeting, the Japanese foreign minister called for an “immediate halt” to Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.
“China’s actions this time have a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the international community,” Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
The maneuvers are taking place along some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, used to supply world markets with vital semiconductors and electronic equipment produced in East Asian factory hubs.
Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau has issued warnings to ships to avoid areas used for Chinese drills.
Taiwan’s cabinet said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of invasion, but that threat has intensified under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.
Analysts said China’s leaders are keen to project strength ahead of a crucial ruling party meeting this fall in which Xi is expected to be granted an unprecedented third term, but China is not aiming to escalate the situation in the country. beyond his control – at least for now.
Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said: “The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war.”
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