China fires ballistic missiles near Taiwan after visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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SEOUL, Aug. 4 (UPI) — China launched several ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan on Thursday, the island’s defense ministry said as Beijing ramps up military provocations one day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

China’s military confirmed the launch on Thursday, saying it fired multiple types of missiles carrying conventional warheads into designated waters off the east coast of Taiwan.

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The missiles successfully hit their targets, a spokesman for the military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] launched multiple Dongfeng series ballistic missiles into the waters around northeastern and southwestern Taiwan,” Taipei’s defense ministry said in a brief statement, adding that it “instantly” detected the launches and ramped up its defense systems in response.

“We condemn the irrational actions that have jeopardized regional peace,” the ministry added.

Beijing reacted furiously to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week, which it had warned against for weeks. Her arrival on Tuesday night with a congressional delegation marked the first time a U.S. House speaker had traveled to the self-governing island since 1997.

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Shortly after her plane touched down in Taipei, China announced it would conduct live-fire exercises in six areas encircling Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday. Some of the zones encroach on Taiwan’s territorial waters, according to an image released by state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The military drills are “unprecedented,” a report China’s state-run tabloid Global Times said Wednesday.

“Conventional missiles are expected to fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time, the PLA forces will enter area within 12 nautical miles of the island and that the so-called median line will cease to exist,” the article said, citing experts.

Some protested against Pelosi during her visit in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday. Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE

Thursday’s missile launches were the latest in a series of military provocations China has conducted around Pelosi’s visit.

Within hours after her departure on Wednesday, China sent 27 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, with 22 of them crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the island’s defense ministry said — a more aggressive incursion than usual.

Taiwan’s defense ministry website was also hit with a cyberattack overnight and temporarily was taken offline, it said Thursday.

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Beijing has retaliated economically as well, restricting imports on items including citrus fruits and frozen mackerel from Taiwan and banning the export of natural sand, the country’s Taiwan Affairs Office announced Wednesday.

China views the democratic island of 23 million as a wayward province that it has vowed to retake by force, if necessary.

During her visit Wednesday, Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and said that America’s determination to protect democracy in Taiwan “remains ironclad.”

She also said that Beijing, which has worked to isolate Taipei diplomatically, “will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan.”

Beijing defended the military drills as a “necessary and legitimate” response to Pelosi’s visit, blaming the United States for raising tensions.

“We need to be absolutely clear that it is the U.S. who is the provocateur, and China the victim,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The U.S. delegation arrived in South Korea on Wednesday night, and Pelosi met Thursday with her counterpart in Seoul, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo. She also spoke with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol by telephone, his office said, and is scheduled to visit the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone later Thursday.

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