CHINA sent 22 warplanes hurtling into Taiwan's airspace as the giant nation continues to flex its military muscles in a message to the US.
Communist forces sent the fighter jets hurtling across the "median line" running down the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, according to the defence ministry in Taipei.
Taiwan said "air defense missile systems" were deployed to track the jets and radio warnings were broadcast – it is understood the island also scrambled fighter planes.
Chinese state media also reported Beijing is moving an aircraft carrier strike group towards the island, which includes a nuclear-powered submarine.
It is the latest brazen move by China as they attempt to send a message to both Taiwan and the US over senior American politician Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei.
Beijing has essentially surrounded the island – which it regards as a breakaway province – with warplanes and warships as it announced six massive military exercises minutes after Pelosi landed on Tuesday.
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Pelosi, the US Speaker of the House, is the second-in-line to the presidency, behind only Vice President Kamala Harris, and a vocal supporter of Taiwan.
Her trip to the island earlier this week was the most senior visit by a US politician – something which infuriated China.
Beijing views any engagement between Washington and Taipei as a US endorsement of the island's independence.
And it has made clear it views Pelosi's trip as a provocation.
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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has always vowed to "reunify" with the island – and its feared the new drills are a rehearsal for invasion.
Enormous military exercises have been launched just 12 miles from the island, with 100 warplanes, missiles being fired, and tanks gathering on beaches.
Beijing claims the island belongs to them, but the people of Taiwan insist they are a separate nation.
Taipei enjoys strong support from the US, even though the White House has stopped short of backing their independence.
And it has always been unclear if Washington would intervene militarily should China attack Taiwan, despite a recent vow from US President Joe Biden.
Chinese state media today referred to the unprecedented war games as rehearsing for the "reunification operation" – and said exercises "blockading the island" will become routine.
The Global Times – which is often seen as the unfiltered mouthpiece of the Communist Party – has been raging over Pelosi's trip to Taiwan.
It branded her "arrogant, paranoid and eager to put on a show" in a scathing editorial published on Thursday.
And it boasted about the ongoing military drills, saying they show China has "absolute control" over Taiwan.
"[Our] battle plan has been made clear to the US and the Taiwan authorities, and we are confident enough to inform them of the consequences of further provocation in this way," the paper quoted Chinese military "expert" Song Zhongping.
China has also dispatched one of its aircraft carrier strike groups to the island for the first time, the paper reported.
Beijing has put both of its biggest vessels – Shandong and Liaoning – to sea in a major muscle flex to all those watching the situation.
The war games began at 12pm (0400 GMT) on Thursday and involved "live-firing", according to Chinese state media.
"Six major areas around the island have been selected for this actual combat exercise and during this period, relevant ships and aircraft should not enter the relevant waters and airspaces," state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Japan has accused China of misfiring its rockets into its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
But Taiwan's maritime officials said the Chinese military established a seventh zone encircling the island and that drills would be extended to Monday.
The exercises are taking place around just 12 miles from Taiwan's shores and were expected to wrap up midday on Sunday.
Taiwan's defence ministry said it was closely watching the military exercises.
"The Ministry of National Defence stresses that it will uphold the principle of preparing for war without seeking war, and with an attitude of not escalating conflict and causing disputes," it said in a statement.
Pelosi – an outspoken supporter of Taiwan – was originally scheduled to travel to Taipei in April but pulled out at the last minute after testing positive for Covid.
Taiwan is feared to be a major flashpoint between the Washington and Beijing – with a potentially invasion potentially forcing the US to either abandon the island or face full scale war with China.
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Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan after the Communists won the civil war on the mainland in 1949 – and the island has remained independent ever since.
However, Beijing has always aggressively insisted that Taiwan belongs to them by right – and have pledged to reclaim the island by 2050.
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