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Taiwan has said that Chinese military drills in waters around the island nation amount to a blockade as Britain criticised Beijing’s “inflammatory” response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit.
The US House of Representatives speaker arrived in Taipei on Tuesday despite continued threats from China, leading the Chinese military to announce four days of military exercises with artillery fire in waters around the island.
The drills featured J-20 stealth fighter jets and test firing of conventional missiles, according to the state-run Global Times, and may result in delays or disrupt shipping to and from the island.
In retaliation to Ms Pelosi’s visit, China also blocked imports of citrus and fish from Taiwan.
Taiwan has been self-governing since nationalist forces fled there in 1949 after the communists took control of China. It is considered to be a rebel province by China, which claims the island as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, speaking during a Conservative Party leadership campaign visit in Ludlow, Shropshire, said: “I do not support China’s inflammatory language on this issue. It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.”
Ms Pelosi’s visit was the highest-level trip by a US official in 25 years. Beijing had warned the United States that it was “playing with fire” if it allowed the speaker’s visit to take place, and even Joe Biden had cautioned against it.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that Chinese drills in waters around the island nation amounted to a blockade of its air and sea space.
According to its official Central News Agency, Taiwan is also holding negotiations with neighbouring Philippines to find alternative aviation routes.
Transport minister Wang Kwo-tsai said there was no need for Taiwan, a global chip manufacturing hub, to find alternative sea transport because its ships can avoid Chinese drill zones.
China, meanwhile, has claimed that its drills around Taiwan didn’t cause any navigation issues.
Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the country’s military actions were legitimate and meant as a deterrent to Taiwan.
On Tuesday, Chinese warships and aircraft moved close to the median of Taiwan Strait ahead of Ms Pelosi’s visit to the island nation. Both China and Taiwan usually stay away from this point.
Taiwan, a self-governing democracy of approximately 23 million people off the coast of China, has become a flashpoint in the growing geopolitical struggle between Washington and Beijing.
Taiwan has its own democratic political system, constitution, and military, and many Taiwanese consider the island to be a separate nation to China. But Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province that will eventually come under its control — by force if necessary.
The US has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognises Beijing under the one-China policy. But the US is an ally of Taiwan, and has been ambiguous about how it would respond to a military attack by China to capture the island.
Additional reporting by agencies