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China keeps up pressure on Taiwan with fourth day of military drills

A military fighter jet flies above the Taiwan Strait as seen from the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, the closest point in mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. China says it is canceling or suspending dialogue with the U.S. on issues from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for a visit this week to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A military fighter jet flies above the Taiwan Strait as seen from the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, the closest point in mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. China says it is canceling or suspending dialogue with the U.S. on issues from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for a visit this week to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China says it has carried out a fourth consecutive day of military drills in the air and sea around Taiwan after US politician Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island, despite international calls to calm the tensions.

The People’s Liberation Army said the exercises focused on testing its long-range air and ground strikes. It did not say if it will continue the drills after Sunday.

Taiwan said it had continued to detect several batches of Chinese aircraft, ships and drones operating around the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island and mainland China, and “simulating attacks on the island of Taiwan and our ships at sea”.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected a total of 66 Chinese aircraft and 14 Chinese warships conducting joint naval and air exercises around the Taiwan Strait. In response, Taiwan deployed air reconnaissance patrols, naval ships, and shore-based missiles, and said that it will continue to closely monitor the situation.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that Taiwan’s army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday, in response to the Chinese exercises.

The drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armoured vehicles and attack helicopters, said the report, which cited an anonymous source.

China set up no-go areas around Taiwan for the four-day drills it announced immediately after Ms Pelosi’s trip to Taipei on Tuesday and Wednesday that infuriated Beijing, which saw it as a violation of the “one-China” policy.

China Taiwan Military Exercises
Taiwan Air Force fighter jets taxi at an airbase in Hsinchu (Johnson Lai/AP)

China claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognising its sovereignty.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence emphasised that its military was monitoring the situation and had dispatched aircraft and ships to respond accordingly.

President Tsai Ing-wen has called on the international community to “support democratic Taiwan” and “halt any escalation of the regional security situation”.

China has so far conducted missiles strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan, and sent warships across the Taiwan Straits median line. It has also cut off defence and climate talks with the US and imposed sanctions on Mr Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, in retaliation for her visit.

The Biden administration and Ms Pelosi say the US remains committed to the “one-China” policy that recognises Beijing as the legitimate government but allows informal relations and defence ties with Taipei.

The US criticised Beijing’s actions in the Taiwan Strait, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling them “fundamentally irresponsible”.

“There’s no need and no reason for this escalation,” she said.