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China has carried out four consecutive days of military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, officials announced Sunday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has called on the international community to “support democratic Taiwan” and “halt any escalation of the regional security situation.”
But the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a number of long-range air and ground strike exercises, and Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that the Taiwanese army will conduct live-fire drills this week in response. The drills will include snipers, combat and armored vehicles, and helicopters, a local report said.
The PLA also sent warships across the Taiwan Straits median line. The vessels operated in six zones around the island, appearing to demonstrate China’s ability to carry out a blockade if desired.
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Pelosi led a congressional delegation to the island last week in direct opposition to Chinese demands that the U.S. abort the meeting. She lauded the “democratic values” and “self-governance” of Taiwan and assured the island that the U.S. would maintain mutual security interests in the region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called China’s reaction a “significant escalation.”
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“China has chosen to overreact and use Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” Blinken told a group of reporters at the ASEAN conference on Friday.
The White House last week had considered that China might use Pelosi’s trip as an excuse for ratcheting up tensions, but insisted that the U.S. will “not be intimidated” by China’s “saber-rattling.”
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“There is no change on our part – something that the President Biden has affirmed repeatedly,” a senior State Department official told reporters. “The question is whether Beijing will try to use the trip as some kind of excuse to take steps that could be escalatory or that could somehow produce conflict.”
China has not indicated if it will continue to conduct drills after Sunday.
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Chinese officials have said Pelosi visiting Taiwan violates the “One China” policy and would constitute aiding an illegal rebellion. A Chinese state media personality even suggested shooting down the speaker’s plane.
Fox News’ Timothy H.J. Nerozzi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.