Taiwan's military is set to conduct live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday to test combat readiness in response to rising pressure from China, which is conducting live-fire military exercises surrounding Taiwan, according to CNA.
The planned drills in the southern Taiwan county will involve the firing of 78 155mm self-propelled howitzers and six 120mm mortars and will be carried out by the 8th Army Corps' 43rd Artillery Command and 333rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, the defense commands in Hualien and Taitung counties in eastern Taiwan, and the coast guard, according to CNA.
In addition, the Army will conduct its annual exercise on Sept. 5, also in Pingtung, involving snipers from combined arms battalions, combat vehicles, Clouded Leopard armored vehicles, and mortars.
Chinese and Taiwanese warships played high-seas "cat and mouse" on Sunday ahead of the scheduled end of four days of unprecedented Chinese military exercises launched in reaction to a visit to Taiwan by the US House speaker.
Some 10 warships each from China and Taiwan sailed at close quarters in the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides, according to local media.
The island's defense ministry said in a release multiple Chinese military ships, aircraft, and drones were simulating attacks on the island and its navy. It said it had sent aircraft and ships to react "appropriately."
Taiwan said its shore-based anti-ship missiles and its Patriot surface-to-air missiles were on standby.
Mobilizing fighter planes, helicopters and warships, the drills aim to simulate a blockade of Taiwan and include practicing an “attack on targets at sea,” Chinese state news agency Xinhua said.
Xinhua added that Beijing has mobilized more than 100 planes, and more than 10 frigates and destroyers, including the J-20 stealth fighter and a Type 055 destroyer, the crown jewels of China’s air and naval forces.
This is the closest the Chinese military ever came to Taiwan, with some of the drills happening less than 20km from the coast.
A particular focus of Beijing’s drills is Taiwan’s eastern flank, a strategically vital area for supplies to Taiwan’s military, as well as any potential US reinforcements.
A “blockade scenario” was long speculated to be one of China’s preferred strategies were it to try to conquer Taiwan, and this week’s drills have revealed how that might come to action.
Such a siege would attempt to prevent any entry or exit of commercial or military ships and aircraft, also denying US forces stationed in the region to access Taiwan.
Live-fire maritime drills
China's People's Liberation Army began four days of live-fire drills in six maritime areas around Taiwan last Thursday.
That day, the PLA fired 11 Dongfeng missiles into waters near the island, in apparent retaliation for a 19-hour visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi early last week.
Taiwan's transport ministry said on Sunday afternoon it was gradually lifting restrictions on flights through its airspace, saying notifications for the drills were no longer in effect.
But Taiwan would continue to direct flights and ships away from one of the drill zones, which China has never confirmed, off its east coast until Monday morning, it said.
China's military has said the sea and air joint exercises, north, southwest and east of Taiwan, had a focus on land-strike and sea-assault capabilities.
The United States called the exercises an escalation.
"These activities are a significant escalation in China's efforts to change the status quo. They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation."White House spokesperson
"These activities are a significant escalation in China's efforts to change the status quo. They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation," a White House spokesperson said.
"They are also at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is what the world expects."
China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and it reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China's claims saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future.
China has also warned the United States not to "act rashly" and create a greater crisis.
Referring to the response to Pelosi's visit, the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper said China had adopted "effective measures that fully demonstrates that China is fully determined and capable of safeguarding national unity and safeguarding ... sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters that China had "arrogantly" used military action to disrupt peace and he called on Beijing to not flex its military muscle.
Taiwan's defense ministry said on Saturday its forces scrambled jets to warn away 20 Chinese aircraft, including 14 that crossed the median line. It also detected 14 Chinese ships conducting activity around the Taiwan Strait.
The ministry released a photograph showing Taiwanese sailors monitoring a nearby Chinese vessel.
As part of its response to Pelosi's visit, China has halted communication through various channels with the United States including between military theater commands and on climate change.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of taking "irresponsible" steps and moving away from prioritizing peaceful resolution toward the use of force.
Pelosi, a long-time China critic and a political ally of President Joe Biden, arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on the highest-level visit to the island by an American official in decades, despite Chinese warnings. She said her visit showed unwavering US commitment to supporting Taiwan's democracy.
"The world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy," she said. She also stressed that her trip was "not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region."
Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, when Mao Zedong's communists took power in Beijing after defeating Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang nationalists in a civil war, prompting their retreat to the island.
Speaking during a visit to the Philippines, Blinken said the United States had been hearing concern from allies about what he called China's dangerous and destabilizing actions but Washington sought to avoid escalating the situation.
China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, on Friday accused Blinken of spreading "misinformation."