China conducts military exercises off Taiwan after warning Pelosi to scrap visit | China

China said it was conducting military exercises off its coast off Taiwan after warning Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to scrap possible plans to visit the island democracy.

The ruling Communist Party’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was conducting “live-fire drills” near the Pingtan Islands in Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., it said the official Xinhua news agency. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.

These exercises usually involve artillery. The one-sentence announcement did not say whether Saturday’s exercise could also include missiles, fighter jets or other weapons.

Pelosi, who would be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997, has not yet confirmed whether she will go.

President Xi Jinping warned his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in a phone call on Thursday against “external interference” in Beijing’s dealings with the island.

China says Taiwan has no right to maintain foreign relations. He sees the visits by US officials as a boost for the island to make its decades-old de facto independence official.

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The Defense Department warned Washington this week not to allow Pelosi, who is Biden’s equal as leader of one of the 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 an increasing number of fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan and has fired missiles into shipping lanes to the island in the past.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with a communist victory on the mainland.

The two governments say they are one country, but disagree over which has the right to national leadership. They have no official relationship, but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

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