The Associated Press reports that China is conducting military drills off its coast close to Taiwan on Saturday. China issued this announcement after warning the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to cancel any plans to visit the island, which Beijing claims is a part of its territory.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the military of the ruling Communist Party was conducting “live-fire exercises” close to the Pingtan islands off Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to keep away from the region.
Pelosi has yet to confirm whether she will visit Taiwan. In a phone conversation Thursday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned his President Joe Biden, against “external interference” in Beijing’s dealings with the island.
Xi warned Biden not to “play with fire” over Taiwan in the call. According to an official Chinese statement, Xi said, “those who play with fire will be perished by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.”
Such drills usually involve artillery. The one-sentence notification did not indicate whether Saturday’s exercise might also consist of missiles, fighter jets, or other weapons.
According to Bloomberg, Indo-Pacific defense policy expert Blake Herzinger said that while the Chinese military may step up air and sea patrols during Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan, he believes a more severe scenario is unlikely to happen.
Herzinger said, “if you think Beijing is planning an imminent invasion of Taiwan, going to war next week, they will kill themselves because of their plan.”
Martin Chorzempa, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the Chinese Communist Party deliberately exaggerates the Taiwan issue to distract from its domestic economic woes. Still, if it were to make “a move strong enough to trigger U.S. sanctions, it would significantly impact the Chinese and world economies.”