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China Holds Military Exercise Near Taiwan As Pelosi Visits Asia

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


After a Chinese state media account tweeted a threat to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s airplane out of the sky, the Chinese military began conducting drills in the sea near Taiwan using live artillery.

The People’s Liberation Army had its “live-fire exercises” close to the Pingtan islands off Fujian province, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Ships were warned to avoid the area by the Maritime Safety Administration, The Daily Mail reported.

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Such exercises usually involve artillery. The one-sentence announcement gave no indication whether Saturday’s exercise also might include missiles, fighter planes or other weapons.

Two other vessels – identified by Vietnam-based maritime observer Duan Dang as a Chinese Type 052D destroyer and a Type 054A frigate – were seen 27km and 23km away from the Taiwan Strait. Both are armed with surface-to-air missiles.

Meanwhile the Chinese navy was conducting military exercises off its southern coast near Guangdong, following exercises in nearby Hainan province. 

It is all seen as a show of force to dissuade Pelosi from visiting the island. As the leader of the co-equal legislative branch of the US government, Joe Biden has no authority to order her to abandon the visit.

Even President Joe Biden said last week that the Pentagon did not think it was a wise idea for the Speaker to make the trip to Taiwan.

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“Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” he said after being asked by a reporter. “But I don’t know what the status of it is.”

On Friday, a commentator for the Chinese government-controlled state media “Global Times” threatened that China could shoot Pelosi’s plane out of the sky if she visits Taiwan.

“If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion. The PLA has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down,” Hu Xijin said.

CNN reported.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to depart Friday for a tour of Asia, though whether she stops in Taiwan remains uncertain, a person familiar with the plans said.

Pelosi’s trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore — all US allies in the region.

But a drop-in to self-governing Taiwan was still only tentative as China issues warnings about the House speaker making a possible visit and US-China relations are at a low point.

Pelosi is bringing a delegation of fellow lawmakers on the visit. She has refused to answer reporters’ inquiries about her plans, saying on Wednesday in response to a question about a potential Taiwan visit, “I never talk about my travel. It’s a danger to me.”

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Taiwan has emerged as a serious point of conflict between the US and China, as US officials fear a more imminent Chinese move on the self-governing island. National security officials have quietly worked to convince Pelosi of the risks her potential trip to Taiwan could pose during a highly sensitive moment.

In a lengthy and candid phone call on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a stern warning to President Joe Biden over the issue.

“Public opinion shall not be violated, and if you play with fire you get burned. I hope the US side can see this clearly,” he said to the president.

This month the Chinese government has reacted angrily to the news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be traveling to Taiwan next month.

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According to a report in the Financial Times, Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan will come as part of a regional trip in Asia that includes visits to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, Reuters noted.

“If the U.S. side obstinately clings to this course, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in response.

“The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this,” he said.

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