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Taiwan says China’s military exercise appears to simulate attacks

Written by Javed Iqbal

BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan said Saturday that China’s military exercises appear to simulate an attack on the self-ruled island after several Chinese warships and aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait following U.S. House speeches Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei that infuriated Beijing.

Taiwan’s armed forces issued an alert, sent air and naval patrols around the island and activated land-based missile systems in response to the Chinese drills, the Ministry of National Defense said.

China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it had conducted military exercises as planned in the sea and airspace north, southwest and east of Taiwan, focusing on “testing the capabilities” of its land attack and sea attack systems.

China launched military exercises with live fire after Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan earlier this week, saying it violated the “one-China” policy. China views the island as a breakaway province to be annexed by force if necessary, and views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of the country’s sovereignty.

Taiwan’s army also said it detected four unmanned aerial vehicles flying near the offshore county of Kinmen on Friday evening and fired warning flares in response.

The four drones, which Taiwan believed to be Chinese, were spotted over waters around the Kinmen archipelago and nearby Lieyu Island and Beiding Island, according to Taiwan’s Kinmen Defense Command.

Kinmen, also known as Quemoy, is a group of islands just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian Province in the Taiwan Strait, which divides the two sides that split amid the 1949 civil war.

“Our government and military are closely monitoring China’s military exercises and information warfare, ready to respond as needed,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a tweet.

“I call on the international community to support democratic Taiwan and halt any escalation of the regional security situation,” she added.

The Chinese military exercises began on Thursday and are expected to last until Sunday. So far, the drills have included missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military exercises in 1995 and 1996, aimed at scaring Taiwan’s leaders and voters.

Taiwan has put its military on high alert and staged civil defense drills, while the US has deployed several naval assets in the area.

The Biden administration and Pelosi has said the United States remains committed to a “one-China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as China’s government but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.

China has also suspended defense and climate talks with the US and imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for the visit.

Pelosi said Friday in Tokyo, the last stop on her Asia tour, that China will not be able to isolate Taiwan by preventing US officials from traveling there.

Pelosi has long been an advocate for human rights in China. She and other lawmakers visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters in the square.

Meanwhile, cyber attacks aimed at defacing the website of Taiwan’s foreign ministry doubled between Thursday and Friday, compared with similar attacks ahead of Pelosi’s visit, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The ministry has not specified the origin of the attack.

Other ministries and government agencies, such as the Ministry of Interior, also faced similar attacks on their websites, according to the report.

A distributed-denial-of-service attack aims to overload a website with requests for information that eventually crashes it, making it inaccessible to other users.

Also on Saturday, the Central News Agency reported that the deputy head of Taiwan’s defense ministry’s research and development unit, Ou Yang Li-hsing, was found dead in his hotel room after suffering a heart attack. He was 57 and had overseen several missile production projects.

The report said his hotel room in the southern county of Pingtung, where he was on a business trip, showed no signs of intrusion.

Taiwanese overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of the island’s de facto independence and reject China’s demand that the island unite with the mainland under communist control.

Globally, most countries subscribe to the “one-China” policy, which is a requirement for maintaining diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Any company that does not recognize Taiwan as part of China often faces swift backlash, often with Chinese consumers vowing to boycott their products.

On Friday, Mars Wrigley, the maker of the Snickers candy bar, apologized after it released a video and materials featuring South Korean boy band BTS that had referred to Taiwan as a country, quickly drawing criticism from Chinese users.

In a statement on its Weibo account, the company expressed “deep apologies.”

“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and conducts business activities in strict accordance with local Chinese laws and regulations,” the statement said.

In a separate post, the firm added that there is “only one China” and said that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”

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Javed Iqbal

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