China has started large-scale sea and air military exercises around Taiwan, following a controversial visit by US politician Nancy Pelosi.
Live-fire drills began at 12:00 p.m. local time (0400 GMT), with some taking place within 12 miles of the self-governing island.
China’s military maneuvers began on Tuesday night after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei, angering Beijing.
Taiwan said China, which regards Taiwan as its own, was trying to revise the status quo in the region and broke United Nations rules.
Beijing then announced a series of retaliatory economic measures on Tuesday in response to Pelosi’s visit, which blocked some international trade with the island.
Chinese military activity, involving the firing of long-range munitions into the congested shipping lanes of the Taiwan Strait, continued on Wednesday.
Taiwan says the drills invaded its territorial space and amounted to an air and sea blockade.
Speaking to the BBC, analyst Bonnie Lin said Taipei would respond militarily, although there was a risk of a confrontation between the two.
“For example, if China decides to fly planes over Taiwan’s airspace, there’s a chance that Taiwan will try to intercept them. And we might see a mid-air collision, we might see a lot of different scenarios unfold,” she said. .
Beijing has not ruled out using force to take control of the island in the past.
The United States (US) pursues a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan and is required by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Washington said the exercises were reckless and risked worsening the situation in the region.
The Taiwanese government has dispatched jets to intercept Chinese fighter jets in recent days, while several ministries have come under cyberattacks.
On Thursday, the Global Times, a state-run Chinese English-language newspaper, said the drills were a rehearsal for “Operation Reunification[s]”.
“In the event of a future military conflict, it is likely that the operational plans currently being rehearsed will be directly translated into combat operations,” said mainland military expert Song Zhongping.
Taiwan has warned shipping companies and airlines to avoid the six areas where Beijing has announced exercises will take place. Some of them are directly in the territorial waters of Taiwan.
G7 countries have expressed concern over China’s response to the US visit, urging restraint and saying China’s moves could spiral the regional situation out of control.
“There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” read a statement from the group of wealthy nations. “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] an escalating response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was the first by a major American politician in more than two decades. She made the trip as part of a wider Asian tour and will visit South Korea on Thursday.
Beijing said there would be “serious consequences” ahead of the visit and warned Pelosi not to go.
The last major outbreak in the region between Taiwan, China and the United States was in 1996, before the re-election of Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.
Since then, China has massively modernized and expanded its military, building its own aircraft carrier and hypersonic weaponry.