The Chinese military has fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships in its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan.
Thursday's drills, which included live firing on the waters and in the airspace, are a show of force after a visit to the island state by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. China considers self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory.
China launched projectiles into the Taiwan Strait, with Beijing's military announcing "long-range live ammunition firing" in the area as part of planned exercises.
The J-20 stealth fighter jet, H-6K bomber, J-11 fighter jet, Type 052D destroyer, Type 056A corvette and DF-11 short-range ballistic missile are among the weapons used in the drills, according to state-backed Global Times newspaper.
Early warning aircraft and DF-17 hypersonic missiles also joined the exercises, it said, citing a report by China Central Television.
Several small projectiles fired from the proximity of nearby military installations flew into the sky on Thursday, followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds around 1.13 pm (0513 GMT), according to reporters on the ground.
China's military said in a statement it had carried out "long-range live ammunition firing on specific areas in the eastern Taiwan Strait".
"Precision strikes were carried out on specific areas on the eastern Taiwan Strait and the expected results were achieved," the Eastern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement.
The relevant sea and airspace controls have been lifted after the completion of the firing of conventional missiles on waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan, it said later.
Crossing the median line
Set to last until Sunday, the exercises will take place in multiple zones around Taiwan — at some points within just 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the shore. The drills are spread out across six locations. They are due to end at 12:00 p.m. (0400 GMT) on Sunday.
Significantly, in the north, east and south, the exercise areas bisect Taiwan's claimed 12 nautical miles of territorial waters — something Taiwanese officials say challenges the international order and amount to a blockade of its sea and air space.
Taiwan's defence ministry said China launched a total of 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan's northern, southern and eastern coasts in several volleys, condemning what it described as "irrational actions that undermine regional peace".
China's military made multiple brief incursions of the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait starting on Wednesday night and continuing through Thursday morning, a Taiwan source briefed on the matter told Reuters news agency.
During that time, about 10 Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line before they were "driven away" by Taiwanese navy boats, said the person, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
By midday on Thursday, military vessels from both sides remained in the area and in close proximity. "They sneaked in, and were driven away by us," the Taiwanese source told Reuters.
Meanwhile, multiple Chinese air force planes briefly crossed the median line several times on Thursday morning, forcing Taiwan to scramble jets and deploy missile systems to track their movement, the person said.
"They flew in and then flew out, again and again. They continue to harass us and increase our air defence pressure."
Beijing's state-run tabloid Global Times said, citing military analysts, that the exercises were "unprecedented" and that missiles would fly over Taiwan for the first time. (TRTWorld)