Chinese military conducts largest maneuvers around Taiwan

China began its military exercises around Taiwan Thursday in the largest maneuver ever organized in the vicinity of the island, China's state TV channel (CCTV) announced.

"The exercises have begun," the channel said in a message posted on the Weibo social network.

Beijing will hold major military exercises as of Thursday noon (0400 GMT) in a number of areas around Taiwan on busy trade routes, according to media.

These exercises will take place in a series of areas that encircle Taiwan, some just twenty kilometers from the Taiwanese coast, and will continue until Sunday noon.

The Global Times, citing military analysts, reported that the exercises will take place at an "unprecedented" range because the missiles will fly over Taiwan for the first time: "This is the first time that the Chinese military has fired live ammunition and long-range artillery fire over the Taiwan Strait."

As a precaution to ensure safety, the Chinese Maritime Security Administration has banned ships from entering the relevant areas.

"If the Taiwanese forces deliberately collided (with the Chinese army) and fired a shot accidentally, they (the Chinese army) would respond forcefully and the Taiwan side would bear all the consequences," a Chinese military source told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Beijing stresses that these exercises, as well as other limited exercises that began in recent days, are a "necessary and legitimate measure" after the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

"The United States is the instigator and China is the victim. China is in a position of legitimate self-defense," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the exercises aimed to simulate a "siege" of the island and include "attacking targets at sea, striking targets on land and controlling the airspace."

Taiwan's military declares its readiness for war

Immediately after the maneuvers began, the Taiwanese army confirmed that it was "preparing for war without seeking war." "The Ministry of National Defense confirms that it will adhere to the principle of preparing for war without seeking war," the Taiwan Defense Ministry said in a statement.

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