Taiwan scrambles jets as 22 Chinese fighters cross Taiwan Strait median line

Taiwan officials said the drills violated United Nations rules, invaded its space and threatened free air and sea navigation.

 The Ground Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts a long-range live-fire drill into the Taiwan Strait, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022. (photo credit: Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS)
The Ground Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts a long-range live-fire drill into the Taiwan Strait, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022.
(photo credit: Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS)

China deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near Taiwan on Thursday in its biggest-ever drills in the Taiwan Strait, a day after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a solidarity trip to the self-ruled island.

China's military confirmed multiple firings of conventional missiles in waters off Taiwan as part of planned exercises in six zones set to run until noon on Sunday. It activated more than 100 planes, including fighter jets and bombers, and over 10 warships, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Taiwan's defense ministry said it scrambled jets to warn away 22 Chinese fighter aircraft that crossed the Taiwan Strait median line into its air defense zone, and said troops fired flares late on Thursday to drive away four drones that flew above the area of its Kinmen islands, off the southeastern coast of China.

It said missiles fired by China flew high into the atmosphere and constituted no threat to it, responding to public concern about whether they passed over the main island of Taiwan.

 The Rocket Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts conventional missile tests into the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022. (credit: Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS) The Rocket Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducts conventional missile tests into the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan, from an undisclosed location in this handout released on August 4, 2022. (credit: Eastern Theatre Command/Handout via REUTERS)

Taiwan said 11 Chinese Dongfeng ballistic missiles had been fired in nearby waters - the first time since 1996.

Taiwan officials said the drills violated United Nations rules, invaded its space and threatened free air and sea navigation.

Before the drills officially began, Chinese navy ships and military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line several times on Thursday morning, a Taiwanese source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

By midday, warships from both sides remained in close proximity as Taiwan also scrambled jets and deployed missile systems to track Chinese aircraft crossing the line.

"They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us"

Taiwanese source

"They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us," the Taiwanese source said.

China, which has long said it reserves the right to take Taiwan by force, says its differences with the island are an internal affair.