TOPSHOT - Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island. - China is due on August 4 to kick off its largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes following a visit to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

One day after US top politician Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China reacted by launching its largest-ever military maneuvers off the Taiwanese coast. According to Taiwanese sources, the Chinese army fired several rockets during the exercises on Thursday.

The fighter planes and ships involved came within 20 kilometers of the Taiwanese coast. Taipei condemned the drills as a threat to regional peace.

The Chinese military confirmed drills for “a conventional missile attack in multiple locations and with multiple types of weapons” off the coast of Taiwan. All of the missiles “hit their target precisely” and tested “hitting accuracy and area defense capability.”

Taipei spoke of “irrational actions that undermine peace in the region”. China has launched 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles, Taiwan’s government said. She gave no details on where the missiles landed and whether they flew over the island.

Japan said it sighted nine missiles, four of which appear to have passed over Taiwan’s main island. The Ministry of Defense in Tokyo announced that five missiles had landed in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the Japanese coast. Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called on China to stop the maneuvers immediately.

AFP journalists on the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles in the sky. Five military helicopters were spotted at relatively low altitude near a popular vacation spot in mainland China, across from Taiwan.

Japan had already pointed out on Wednesday during US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan that China’s maneuvers are taking place in an area that overlaps with Japan’s economic zone.

Pelosi plans to hold talks with the government in Tokyo on Friday. Japan is a key Washington ally. The USA is also Japan’s protecting power.

During the night, China launched the largest military demonstration of power in decades. “The exercises are beginning,” broadcaster CCTV announced on Thursday on the online network Weibo.

You could also be a model for violent conquest. According to Chinese information, rockets for “precision strikes” were also fired.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry accused Beijing of launching “several ballistic missiles into Taiwan’s northeastern and southwestern waters since 1:56 p.m. (local time, 7:56 a.m.)” the ministry said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We condemn such irrational actions that endanger regional peace.” A reporter from Taiwanese TV station TVBS-News reported that the ministry had “launched defense systems.”

Images on Chinese social media showed suspected artillery and missile launches toward the Taiwan Straits. The AFP news agency also distributed videos of Chinese military helicopters flying near the Chinese island of Pingtan. The island is only about 130 kilometers away from Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it was closely monitoring the situation. The island nation’s armed forces would act on the principle of “preparing for war without wanting war”. There is also no “escalation of the conflict” sought.

According to the Defense Ministry, Taiwan had previously used flares to drive off unidentified Chinese missiles over the Kinmen Islands. Two Chinese aircraft, likely drones, entered the area twice on Wednesday night, around 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Maj. Gen. Chang Zone-sung of the Kinmen Defense Command told Reuters on Thursday.

“We immediately set off flares to warn and drive them away. After that they turned back. They came into our security zone, so we expelled them.” He assumes that the drones were used to gather information about Taiwan’s security measures. The heavily fortified Kinmen Islands are politically part of Taiwan, but lie off the southeastern coast of China near the city of Xiamen.

According to state media, the ongoing Chinese maneuvers around Taiwan are aimed at a naval and air blockade of the democratic island republic. A possible military conquest of Taiwan is also being practiced with it. The Taiwanese port authority announced on Thursday afternoon (local time) that the Chinese air force is expanding the maneuvering area, tweeted East Asia correspondent for Deutsche Welle, William Yang.

In addition, the exercise will be “extended until 10 a.m. next Monday morning”. The maneuvers, which will include missile tests and target practice, were ordered by the People’s Liberation Army in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The visit of the US top politician, who continued her Asia trip to South Korea on Thursday, had fueled tensions around Taiwan. It was the highest-ranking visit from the United States in a quarter of a century. Beijing reacted with outrage because it claims the island for itself.

The communist leadership sees Taiwan only as part of the People’s Republic. Beijing strictly rejects official contacts from other countries to Taipei and had vehemently warned against the visit. Taiwan, on the other hand, has long considered itself independent.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) called for de-escalation during her visit to Canada. Visits such as Pelosi’s to Taiwan “must not be used as an excuse for military threatening gestures.” A change in the status quo in Taiwan “can only take place peacefully and with the mutual consent of all parties involved.”

China’s artillery also plans to hold long-range target practice in the Taiwan Strait strait that separates the mainland from Taiwan. Also, the center line drawn by Taiwan in the sea route is crossed, “which ceases to exist,” according to state media. Eastern Command Vice Chief of Staff Gu Zhong said there should be practice blockade of the island, sea attacks, landings and airspace control.

The maneuvers are larger than in the “missile crisis” of 1995 and 1996, when China also sent missiles north and south across Taiwan’s territorial waters to intimidate, Chinese military experts said. Even then, Beijing wanted to scare off the pro-independence forces in Taiwan by heating up tensions. At that time, the United States had sent two aircraft carriers.

According to Chinese information, the early announcement on Tuesday evening – immediately after Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan – should give civilian ships and airlines enough time to leave the maneuvering areas or change flight routes. The maneuvers, which started on Tuesday evening, should be fully resumed this Thursday.

A dispute could draw the USA militarily into the conflict. In the current situation, experts warned of dangerous incidents caused by miscalculations by the armed forces on both sides. The United States has committed itself to Taiwan’s defense capability, which has so far mostly meant the delivery of weapons. However, US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US has an obligation to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.