China announces Taiwan Strait drills ahead of possible Nancy Pelosi’s trip


File picture: A Ching Chiang class patrol ship fires off depth charges underwater as part of a navy demonstration in Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang exercises off the island’s eastern coast near the city of Yilan, Taiwan on Tuesday

Photo : AP

Beijing: China on Saturday will hold live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Strait, the government announced via state media, raising the stakes ahead of a possible trip to the self-governing island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The manoeuvres will be limited in scope and will take place off the island of Pingtan in Fujian province, according to a statement issued Thursday, but reported by Chinese state media only Friday.

“Live ammunition will be fired… between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm (0000-1300 GMT) and any entry (into these waters) will be prohibited”, said the government statement, which does not mention Pelosi.

Tensions have been simmering between the world’s two biggest economies and growing geopolitical rivals over Taiwan, with Chinese President Xi Jinping warning US President Joe Biden in a phone call Thursday “those who play with fire will eventually get burned.”

The US administration has not confirmed or denied reports that Pelosi, a key Biden ally, is going ahead with a stop in Taiwan during a tour of Asia. Pelosi has also not commented publicly on the widely reported plan.

Beijing sees such a trip as a provocation, given its claim to sovereignty over the self-ruling democratic island.

Although US officials often make discreet visits to Taiwan, Pelosi is second in line to the presidency and she will be using military transport during her visit to Asia.

The area where Saturday’s Chinese manoeuvres are set to take place is located about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the Taiwanese coast.