SMA NEWS – PINGTAN
The US on Thursday denounced as an “overreaction” and “provocative China’s show of force after the Asian superpower fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets around Taiwan, in an angry response over the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“The temperature’s pretty high,” but tensions “can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these very aggressive military drills,” he added.
China launched a series of exercises in multiple zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the island’s shore on Thursday following Pelosi’s stunt.
The US House speaker was the highest-profile US official to visit Taiwan in years, defying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the self-ruled island as its territory.
The drills began around 12 noon local time (0400 GMT), and involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.
Taiwan said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles “in several batches” and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace.”
Japan, a key US ally, said that of the nine missiles it had detected, four were “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island.”
Tokyo has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the exercises, with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi saying five of the missiles were believed to have landed in his country’s exclusive economic zone.
Taipei’s defense ministry said it had detected 22 Chinese fighter jets briefly crossing the Taiwan Strait’s “median line” during Thursday’s exercises.
Beijing has said the drills will last until midday on Sunday.
Beijing has defended the drills as “necessary and just,” pinning the blame for the escalation on the United States and its allies.
“In the face of this blatant provocation, we have to take legitimate and necessary countermeasures to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing Thursday.