China begins live-fire military exercises in six zones around Taiwan, says state media – live – The Guardian

Key events

Reuters reports that China’s Eastern Theatre Command has said it had completed multiple firings of conventional missiles on waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan today as part of planned exercises.

The relevant sea and airspace controls have been lifted after the firing was completed, a spokesperson at the Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement.

Helen Davidson

Helen Davidson

We earlier reported on claims of 900 rerouted flights because of the drills. Taiwan’s transportation department has clarified in local media that some of the identified zones for PLA activity – with the strong advice that air and sea craft steer clear – have impacted 18 international routes in and out of Taiwan. The department estimated this would affect about 900 flights over the three days that the drills are scheduled.

Vietnamese media reported that up to 36 Vietnam Airlines flights and 82 VietJet flights have had to adjust their routes to northeast Asia and north America to avoid the drills.

Agence France-Presse is carrying this image which shows plumes of smoke going up into the sky, which its journalists witnessed.

#UPDATE The Chinese army launched projectiles into the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, @AFP journalists saw, as Beijing’s military announced “long-range live ammunition firing” in the area.

Several projectiles blasted into the sky followed by plumes of smoke and booming sounds pic.twitter.com/4EDdQpJown

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) August 4, 2022

Taiwan’s defence ministry confirms Chinese missiles fired near Matsu

Helen Davidson

Helen Davidson

Taiwan’s defence ministry appears to have confirmed those reports of missiles fired near Matsu. In a statement a short time ago it said the PLA had launched a number of Dongfeng series missiles into the waters northeast and southwest of Taiwan’s main island.

Earlier the PLA announced it had conducted long range “precision strikes” into the Taiwan Strait at 1pm, and civilian videos purportedly of projectiles launching from behind an otherwise picturesque Chinese beach in Pingtan spread across social media. The Guardian has not independently verified the footage.

We reported earlier that China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) group.

Reuters reports that, in another sign of rising tensions, China’s foreign ministry has confirmed that Wang has cancelled a planned bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Two missiles were launched by China near Taiwan’s Matsu islands, which lie off the coast of China, at about 2pm local time.

They were seen headed in the direction of the #2 and #3 drill zones previously announced by China, according to an internal Taiwan security report that has been seen by Reuters and confirmed by a security source.

Summary of what we know so far …

  • Taiwan’s military has said it is “preparing for war without seeking war”, after China’s military began an unprecedented four days of live-fire exercises close to Taiwan’s shores on Thursday, in reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
  • At midday local time, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced the beginning of “important military training exercise and organised live fire”, which are expected to include missile tests.
  • Notices of the exercises identified six areas encircling Taiwan, with warnings for all ships and aircraft to avoid the areas. Some of the zones overlap with Taiwan’s territorial waters, and are near key shipping ports. Taiwan’s defence ministry has accused China of in effect mounting a blockade.
  • A Taiwanese official said about ten Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line – the informal line dividing Chinese and Taiwanese territorial waters – before they were “driven away” by Taiwanese navy boats. “They sneaked in, and were driven away by us,” they said.
  • Taiwan also said multiple Chinese air force planes briefly crossed the median line several times on Thursday morning, forcing Taiwan to scramble jets and deploy missile systems to track their movement.
  • Unverified video appears to show live rockets being fired from the China towards Taiwan. AFP journalists in the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles flying into the sky followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds.
  • Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau has issued warnings to ships to avoid the areas being used. The Taiwanese cabinet said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).

Earlier today, amid the tension of the live-fire drills around Taiwan, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, stressed his country’s efforts to strengthen ties with south-east Asian nations at a meeting with top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Associated Press reports that in his opening marks, Wang did not mention the situation in Taiwan directly, but instead stressed how China and the ASEAN countries had strengthened cooperation in recent years.

“We have safeguarded the oasis of peace in the face of the turbulence in the international security situation,” he said.

Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean foreign minister Park Jin, Cambodia’s foreign minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pose for a group photo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean foreign minister Park Jin, Cambodia’s foreign minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pose for a group photo in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

ASEAN is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Reuters is carrying some quotes from a Taiwanese official, who it says spoke to them on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. The official describes todays events so far, saying about 10 Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line before they were “driven away” by Taiwanese navy boats.

“They sneaked in, and were driven away by us,” the Taiwanese source said.

Multiple Chinese air force planes briefly crossed the median line several times on Thursday morning, forcing Taiwan to scramble jets and deploy missile systems to track their movement, the person said.

“They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us and increase our air defence pressure.”

Chinese state media outlets are reporting Beijing conducted long-range artillery live-fire shooting drills in the Taiwan Straits, noting that “expected results have been achieved”.

“PLA Eastern Theatre Command Army conducted long-range artillery live-fire shooting drills in the Taiwan Straits, striking targets on the eastern side of the Straits and achieving the expected outcome,” China’s Global Times reported.

“The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted long-range live-fire shooting training in the Taiwan Straits on Thursday at around 1:00 p.m. and carried out precision strikes on specific areas in the eastern part of the Taiwan Straits,” state broadcaster CGTN added.

“The PLA Eastern Theatre Command said that expected results had been achieved.”

A TV screen shows that China’s People’s Liberation Army has begun military exercises including live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan.
A TV screen shows that China’s People’s Liberation Army has begun military exercises including live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi earlier described US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a “complete farce” at meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia.

“The irreversible historical trend of Taiwan’s return to the motherland cannot be changed. Those who offend China will surely be punished,” he said.

You can watch Wang Yi’s remarks in the video below.

‘Outright farce’: Chinese foreign minister on Pelosi’s Taiwan visit – video

China’s military drills in the north, east and south areas bisect Taiwan’s claimed 12 nautical miles of territorial waters and encircle the island in an “unprecedented formation” a Chinese military professor has said.

Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the National Defence University, told Chinese state television, the locations could provide a snapshot as to how an actual military operation against Taiwan could play out.

“In fact, this has created very good conditions for us when, in the future, we reshape our strategic landscape conducive to our unification,” Meng said, according to a Reuters report.

Chinese forces in two areas off the northern coast of Taiwan could potentially seal off Keelung, a major port, while strikes could be launched from an area east of Taiwan targeting the military bases in Hualien and Taidong, he said.

The “doors” to Kaoshiung could also be closed by Chinese military off the southwestern coast, Meng added.

Here are some of the latest images showing Chinese military helicopters flying past China’s mainland ahead of military drills off Taiwan this afternoon.

A Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest points from Taiwan ahead of massive military drills off the island.
A Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest points from Taiwan ahead of massive military drills off the island. Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images
A Chinese military helicopter seen in the sky above Pingtan island in Fujian province.
A Chinese military helicopter seen in the sky above Pingtan island in Fujian province. Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images
Chinese military helicopters seen as China launches massive military drills off Taiwan on Thursday.
Chinese military helicopters seen as China launches massive military drills off Taiwan on Thursday. Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images
Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island.
Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island. Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has called US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” action by the United States, state broadcaster CCTV is reporting.

Wang, speaking at the Asean foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said China has made the “greatest diplomatic efforts” to avert crisis, but will never allow its core interests to be hurt.

China’s current and future measures are necessary and timely defensive countermeasures, carefully considered and evaluated, aimed at safeguarding national sovereignty and security, in line with international and domestic law, CCTV cited Wang as saying.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has thanked the Group of Seven (G7) nations for supporting regional peace and stability after the group called on China to resolve tensions in the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful manner.

Tsai, in a Twitter post, wrote:

Taiwan is committed to defending the status quo and our hard-earned democracy.

We’ll work with like-minded partners to maintain a free & open Indo-Pacific.”

Rebecca Ratcliffe

Rebecca Ratcliffe

Our south-east Asia correspondent, Rebecca Ratcliffe, has some more details surrounding comments made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as foreign ministers meet in Cambodia today.

Foreign ministers from the 10-member bloc have called for “maximum restraint” regarding the Taiwan Strait, warning the situation could lead to “serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

The bloc, which is currently gathering in Phnom Penh, said in a joint statement that it is “concerned with the international and regional volatility, especially in the recent development in the area adjacent with the Asean region, which could destabilise the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

“Asean calls for maximum restraint, refrain from provocative action,” it added, without mentioning the US or China by name.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Antony Blinken are both visiting Cambodia for talks with Asean ministers. However, they reportedly have no plans to meet together.

While some Asean members, including host country Cambodia, have close ties to Beijing, others are concerned by China’s growing assertiveness, including in the South China Sea.

The world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security and inclusive and sustainable development,” the Asean statement said. It also reiterated “Asean member states’ support for their respective One-China Policy”.

We have a little more detail on how Taiwan is responding to the drills which began just after midday on Thursday.

Ten minutes before the drills were due to begin, Taiwan’s department of defence issued a statement accusing the Chinese government of “irrational behaviour” with its live-fire exercises.

The exercises had “the intention of changing the status quo and disrupting regional peace and stability”, it said.

“The national army will continue to strengthen its alert, and troops at all levels will conduct daily training.”

#ROCArmdForces are operating as usual and monitor our surroundings in response to irrational activities from PRC, aiming for changing the status quo & destabilizing the region’s security. We seek no escalation, but we don’t stand down when it comes to our security and sovereignty

— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) August 4, 2022

Meanwhile, the US Navy has said the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was conducting scheduled operations in the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific, a 5.7m square kilometre (2.2m square mile) stretch of ocean that includes waters southeast of Taiwan.

“USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group are underway in the Philippine Sea continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a US Navy Seventh Fleet spokesperson said, as reported by Reuters news agency.

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China begins live-fire military exercises in six zones around Taiwan, says state media – live – The Guardian

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