BEIJING (AP/Sputnik) – China said it was conducting military exercises Saturday off its coast opposite Taiwan after warning Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the U.S. House of Representatives to scrap possible plans to visit the island, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.
The ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, was conducting “live-fire exercises” near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.
Such exercises usually involve artillery. The one-sentence announcement gave no indication whether Saturday’s exercise also might included missiles, fighter planes or other weapons.
Pelosi, who would be the highest-ranking American elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997, has yet to confirm whether she will go. President Xi Jinping warned his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, in a phone call Thursday against “external interference” in Beijing’s dealings with the island.
China says Taiwan has no right to conduct foreign relations. It sees visits by American officials as encouragement for the island to make its decades-old de facto independence official.
The Ministry of Defense warned Washington this week not to allow Pelosi, who is Biden’s equal in rank as leader of one of three branches of government, to visit Taiwan. A spokesman said the PLA would take unspecified “strong measures” to stop pro-independence activity.
The PLA has flown growing numbers of fighter planes and bombers near Taiwan and has in the past fired missiles into shipping lanes to the island.
Meanwhile, what China might actually do in case Pelosi moves ahead with her visit remains unclear.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said “a visit to Taiwan by Speaker Pelosi would challenge China’s red line, and any challenge to our red line will no doubt be met with resolute countermeasures.”
However, a commentator for China’s state-run Global Times newspaper called for intercepting Pelosi’s plane.
“If U.S. fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion. The PLA has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the U.S. fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down,” wrote the daily’s columnist Hu Xijin.
Former president Donald Trump said in a statement Pelosi should not get involved in the situation around China and Taiwan because she will only make it worse.
“Why is Nancy Pelosi getting involved with China and Taiwan other than to make trouble and more money,” Trump said via his Truth Social platform on Friday. “The China mess is the last thing she should be involved in - she will only make it worse. Crazy Nancy just inserts herself and causes great friction and hatred”, Sputnik reported.