March 2, 2024

BEIJING (AP) — China says it has summoned European diplomats to the country to protest statements issued by the Group of Seven nations and the European Union criticizing threatening Chinese military exercises around Taiwan.

The Foreign Ministry on Friday said Vice Minister Deng Li had made “official assurances” about what it called “unintentional interference in China’s internal affairs.”

China sent navy ships and warplanes and fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this weekwhich China regards as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

On the Chinese coast across from Taiwan, tourists gathered on Friday to try to catch a glimpse of any military aircraft headed for the exercise area. Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, “Let’s take Taiwan back,” looking out over the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan Island, a popular scenic spot.

On Friday morning, China sent warships and warplanes to the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s defense ministry said, crossing an unofficial security zone between China and Taiwan for decades.

Five of the missiles fired by China landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said Japan protested the missile launches in China as “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”

Japan’s defense ministry later said it believed the other four missiles, fired from China’s southeast coast of Fujian, flew over Taiwan.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that China’s military exercises targeting Taiwan represent a “serious problem” that threatens regional peace and security.

In Tokyo, where Pelosi ends her trip to Asia, said China cannot prevent US officials from visiting Taiwan. Speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and her congressional delegation, Kishida said the missile launches must “stop immediately.”

Deng said China will “prevent the country from disintegrating with the utmost determination, using all means and at any cost.”

“Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a blatant political manipulation and a flagrant and serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Deng said. “In response to US-Taiwan collusion and provocation, China’s counterattack is completely natural.”

China’s foreign ministry said the meeting took place on Thursday night, but did not provide information on which countries were involved. Earlier on Thursday, China canceled a meeting of foreign ministers with Japan protesting the G-7’s statement that there was no justification for the drills.

Both ministers attended a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.

China had earlier summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns to protest Pelosi’s visit. The speaker left Taiwan on Wednesday after meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen and holding other public events. He traveled to South Korea and then to Japan. Both countries host US military bases and could be drawn into a conflict with Taiwan.

The Chinese exercises involve troops from the navy, air force, missile force, strategic support force and logistics force, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

They are believed to be the largest to take place near Taiwan geographically, with Beijing announcing six exercise zones surrounding the island.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke at the drills on Thursday saying: “I very much hope that Beijing will not create a crisis or look for a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity. We countries around the world believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests.”

US law requires the government to treat threats against Taiwan, including blockades, as matters of “serious concern”.

The drills are due to run from Thursday to Sunday and include missile strikes on targets in seas north and south of the island in the wake of the last major Chinese military exercises aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters in 1995 and 1996.

Taiwan has put its military on alert and held civil defense drills, but the overall mood remained calm on Friday. Flights have been cancelled or were diverted and the fishermen remained in port to avoid the Chinese exercises.

In the northern port of Keelung, Lu Chuan-hsiong, 63, was enjoying his morning bath on Thursday, saying he was not worried.

“Everybody should want money, not bullets,” Lu said.

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