Following a controversial visit to the island last week by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China's greatest military drills outside Taiwan came to an end on Sunday (Aug. 7).
Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in decades, and her visit has infuriated Beijing, which has ripped up a number of negotiations and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defense. Additionally, Beijing has sent out fighter jets, cruisers, and ballistic missiles in preparation for a blockade and eventual invasion of the self-governing island, which China claims as its own.
Although Taiwan's transport ministry claimed to have spotted some evidence indicating at least a partial pullback, Beijing and Taipei have not verified that the exercises had come to a stop as of Sunday.
According to the Chinese military's Eastern Command, Beijing carried out "exercises in the sea and airspace surrounding Taiwan Island as planned." China has sent out "planes, warships, and drones... simulating attacks on Taiwan's main island and on ships in our waterways," according to Taipei's defense ministry.
It discovered 14 warships and 66 air force aircraft operating in the Taiwan Strait, of which 22 flew over both the enlarged area of the unofficial demarcation between Taiwan and China's territorial seas and the median line.
Local authorities reported that at least one drone from China was also deployed over Taiwan's remote Kinmen islands, leading military to retaliate with flares. In response to a request for comment regarding when the drills were likely to end, the Chinese defense ministry remained silent. A representative of Taiwan's defense ministry advised journalists to "ask the country conducting them to explain."
The conclusion of the drills was not mentioned in a brief article published early on Monday by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. Air force official Zhang Zhi was quoted by Xinhua saying that the exercises tested "tactics of systems warfare under information-based conditions, and honed and improved the capabilities to destroy crucial island targets with precision strikes."
Six of the seven "temporary danger zones" that China had advised flights to avoid were no longer in place as of midday on Sunday, according to Taiwan's transport ministry, indicating a partial winding down of the drills. The seventh zone, located in the waters east of Taiwan, was stated to be in force until Monday morning at 10am. "Relevant flights and sailings can gradually resume," the ministry said.
According to Taipei, some routes in the seventh area were still impacted, and authorities there will keep an eye on ship movements.