China announces fresh military drills in sea and airspace around Taiwan

China has announced more military drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan, a day after the scheduled end of exercises launched in protest against US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command said on Monday that it would conduct joint drills focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week infuriated China, which regards the self-governing democracy as its own and responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as cutting some communication lines with Washington.

The duration and precise location of the latest drills were not yet known, but Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six zones where China had carried out its previous exercises.

Shortly before the latest drills were announced, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met visiting St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, telling him she was moved by his determination to visit despite China’s military pressure.

“Prime Minister Gonsalves has expressed in recent days that the Chinese military drills would not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. These statements have deeply touched us,” Tsai said at a welcome ceremony for Gonsalves in Taipei.

Beyond the firing of 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the four earlier days of exercises, Chinese warships, fighter jets and drones manoeuvred extensively around the island.

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”, air force officer Zhang Zhi said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that it detected a total of 66 aircraft and 14 warships conducting naval and air exercises. The island has responded by putting its military on alert and deploying ships, planes and other assets to monitor Chinese aircraft, ships and drones that are “simulating attacks on the island of Taiwan and our ships at sea”.

Taiwan’s army will conduct live-fire artillery drills in southern Pingtung County on Tuesday and Thursday in response to the Chinese exercises.

The drills will include snipers, combat vehicles, armoured vehicles as well as attack helicopters, said the island’s official Central News Agency.