China’s largest military exercises surrounding Taiwan were drawing to a close on Sunday (Aug 7) following a controversial visit last week to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi – the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in decades – ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defence.
It has also deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the self-ruled island – which China claims as its territory.
Those exercises were supposed to end on Sunday, but neither Beijing nor Taipei confirmed their conclusion, though Taiwan’s transport ministry said it had seen some evidence suggesting at least a partial drawdown.
Beijing conducted “exercises in the sea and airspace surrounding Taiwan Island as planned”, the Chinese military’s Eastern Command said.
Taipei’s defence ministry confirmed China had dispatched “planes, vessels and drones … simulating attacks on Taiwan’s main island and on ships in our waters”.
It detected 66 air force planes and 14 warships operating in the Taiwan Strait, of which 22 crossed the median line and the extended area of the unofficial demarcation in the waters that separate Taiwan and China.
Beijing does not recognise that demarcation.
China also sent at least one drone over Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen islands, forcing troops to respond with flares, local authorities said.
China’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the expected conclusion of the drills. A Taiwan defence ministry official told reporters to “ask the country conducting them to explain”.
Early on Monday, Chinese state news agency Xinhua issued a short report that did not mention the conclusion of the drills.
The exercises tested “tactics of systems warfare under information-based conditions, and honed and improved the capabilities to destroy crucial island targets with precision strikes”, Xinhua quoted air force officer Zhang Zhi as saying.
Taiwan’s transport ministry said six of the seven “temporary danger zones” China had warned airlines to avoid ceased to be in effect as of noon on Sunday, signalling a partial drawdown of the drills.
It said the seventh zone, in waters east of Taiwan, would remain in effect until 10am Monday.
“Relevant flights and sailings can gradually resume,” the ministry said.
Taipei said some routes were still affected in the seventh area, and authorities would continue to monitor ship movements there.