Taiwan’s defense ministry said Chinese warships and aircraft continued drills in waters around the island, adding that Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces crossed the median line — the halfway point between the island and mainland China — in a move it called a “highly provocative act.”
The line has previously been an informal but largely respected border of control between Beijing and Taipei. Taiwan’s military responded with radio warnings and put air patrol forces, naval ships and shore-based missile systems on alert, the ministry added.
Two Chinese drones also flew around Okinawa prefecture in Japan on Thursday, prompting the country’s Air Self-Defense Force to scramble fighter jets in response, according to a statement from Tokyo’s Ministry of Defense on Friday.
In all, 49 planes entered its air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement. The ministry had previously suggested 68 aircraft flew into the area, but later clarified that 19 operated west of the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said the island represented “freedom and democracy,” and that “the evil neighbor next door flexed its muscles on our doorstep and arbitrarily sabotaged (one of) the busiest waterways in the world with military exercises.”
The skies and waters around Taiwan have become a focal point as Beijing ramps up tensions not only with Taiwan, but with neighboring Japan, which lodged a formal protest with China after five projectiles landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The missiles were among a number launched by Beijing Thursday — some of which flew over Taiwan — as Pelosi made her way to Tokyo where she met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday.
China has previously fired missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan — a democratic island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party regards as its territory, despite having never controlled it — most notably during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in the 1990s.
But missiles flying over the island marked a significant escalation, with US officials warning there may be more to come.
“We anticipated that China might take steps like this — in fact, I described them for you in quite some detail just the other day,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “We also expect that these actions will continue and that the Chinese will continue to react in the coming days.”
A US aircraft carrier will stay in the area around Taiwan for several more days to “monitor the situation,” Kirby added.
On Friday, Kishida said the Chinese military drills were “a serious issue concerning the security of our country and its people” and called for an immediate halt to the exercises. Japan and the US would “work together to maintain stability in the Taiwan…