TAIPEI/WHITE HOUSE —
China sent several warplanes and ships across the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait early Friday, Taiwanese defense officials said, as Beijing continued its multiday military exercises in response to a Taiwan visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan’s military said in a statement that its reconnaissance planes and naval vessels are monitoring the Chinese activity, which it called “highly provocative.” It is the second consecutive day Chinese planes and ships have crossed the median line, the de facto sea border.
China has declared four days of military exercises in six designated zones surrounding Taiwan. The drills are raising fears of a miscalculation, although, so far, Taiwanese and U.S. officials say they have no desire to escalate the situation.
On Thursday, China fired at least 11 missiles into the waters near Taiwan’s coast. At least four of the missiles overflew Taiwan, according to Japanese defense officials, in what many defense analysts described as an unprecedented provocation.
Five of the missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, prompting firm condemnations by Tokyo.
“China’s behavior has a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and also the world,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday after meeting with Pelosi, whose congressional delegation was in Tokyo on the final stop of an Asia tour.
China is furious over Pelosi’s visit, which was meant to express solidarity with Taiwan, a democratic island of about 24 million people.
Despite never having controlled Taiwan, China’s Communist Party insists the island is a Chinese province, and has vowed to take it, by force, if necessary.
In China, some state-controlled media have characterized the drills as a rehearsal for invasion and a demonstration that Beijing can impose a blockade on the island. Analysts are waiting to see how long the Chinese drills will last, and whether Beijing will continue such provocations in the coming weeks and months.
Much depends on the response of the U.S. military, which maintains a regular presence in the region. On Thursday, U.S. officials said the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan will remain in the vicinity to “monitor the situation.”
The U.S. military will also conduct “standard air and maritime transits” through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks, said John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.
However, to reduce tensions, Kirby said the U.S. is postponing a long-planned test of an Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
In a video address Thursday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen insisted Taiwanese forces are “calm and will not act in haste.”
“We are rational and will not act to provoke. But we will absolutely not back down,” Tsai added.
The Chinese military activity, she said, “encroaches upon our nation’s sovereignty” and threatens “the normal functioning of international trade” in one of the busiest transportation corridors in the world.
Some commercial flights into Taiwan continued to be disrupted because of the Chinese military drills. Airlines in South Korea and Singapore have canceled or rerouted flights, local media in both countries reported.