China on Thursday encircled Taiwan with warships and warplanes and fired missiles in the area in its largest-ever drills around the island in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
The South China Morning Post reported that China broke decades-old tacit rules it established with Taiwan by sending ships and planes across the median line that separates the Taiwan Strait, firing missiles over the island, and simulating a blockade on the island, describing Thursday’s drills as a “day of firsts.”
According to the Post, China fired missiles over Taiwan for the first time. China has rarely crossed the median line before, but now the incursion is expected to become routine in the wake of Pelosi’s visit.
Thursday was just the first day of drills that are set to last through Sunday. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shut down six areas around Taiwan in what effectively amounts to a military blockade. According to China’s Xinhua news agency, over 10 destroyers and frigates from the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command “conducted joint blockade operations in waters off the Taiwan Island.” China also reportedly deployed an aircraft carrier and one nuclear submarine.
The PLA’s Eastern Theater Commands said in a statement that it launched “precision” strikes in the designated areas around Taiwan.
“All the missiles hit the target accurately, testing the precision strike and area denial capabilities. The entire live ammunition launch training mission has been successfully completed, and the relevant sea and airspace controls have been lifted,” the statement said.
The US responded to the military drills by canceling a planned test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile to reduce tensions, although the Pentagon did order the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to stay near Taiwan and “monitor the area.”