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Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on 4 August 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island. (Photo by Hector Retamal, AFP, Getty)

China Practices Sea and Air Blockade Around Taiwan

In retaliation for Taipei hosting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, China put on a show of force on Thursday, including firing multiple missiles into Taiwan’s surrounding sea.

As part of her tour through Asia, Pelosi left Taiwan on 3 August for South Korea. Although Pelosi’s tour will end in Japan this weekend, her visit to Taiwan has furthered tensions in the area.

“Pelosi’s visit to Taipei this week infuriated Chinese leaders, who claimed the high-level delegation was a violation of China’s territorial rights and a deliberate provocation amid deteriorating U.S.-China relations,” the Washington Post reported.

Prior to military maneuvers, Chinese officials warned airlines on Wednesday morning to avoid airspace near Taiwan.

Airline carriers received an official notice from China on 2 August, alerting them to six areas of airspace that were designated as “danger zones,” according to Bloomberg. The alert warned that flying in these areas should be avoided because they would be sites of military exercises between 12:00 p.m. on 4 August to 12:00 p.m. on 7 August, Hong Kong time.

Chinese authorities initiated military exercises, targeting six areas surrounding Taiwan. Taiwanese officials described the maneuvers as equivalent to a “sea and air blockade,” according to the Post. The six targeted areas the People's Liberation Army (PLA) selected “could give Chinese forces valuable practice, should they one day be ordered to encircle and attack the island,” according to the New York Times.

Ten Chinese naval ships crossed the unofficial maritime line in the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday night and remained through midday 4 August. Meanwhile, more than 20 Chinese military aircraft crossed the same boundary line on Thursday morning.

Beyond military positioning, on Thursday afternoon the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA fired 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into the sea near northeastern and southwestern Taiwan, according to the Taiwan Defense Ministry. “Taiwan reported Chinese long-range rockets had fallen near its islands of Matsu, Wuqiu, Dongyin, which are in the Taiwan Strait, but located closer to the mainland than the main island of Taiwan,” CNN said.

These missile strikes were part of long-range, live-fire exercises targeting parts of the Taiwan Strait, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, the Post reported.

“The six zones were chosen for their importance in a potential campaign to seal off Taiwan and thwart foreign intervention, Major General Meng Xiangqing, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University in Beijing, said in an interview on Chinese state television,” the Times reported.

China’s mainland government also blocked imports of citrus fruits and frozen mackerel from Taiwan in retaliation for Pelosi’s trip, the Associated Press reported

China has long held that Taiwan is a part of its territory, and in 2020 it refused to acknowledge the median line in the Taiwan Strait, reversing previous respect of the boundary line.

“Beijing may use the Pelosi visit as an opportunity to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group, said to the Post.