Taiwan says flights through its airspace resuming after Chinese military drills end

TAIPEI (REUTERS) – Taiwan on Sunday (Aug 7) said flights through its airspace had gradually resumed from about noon as most notifications for Chinese military drills near the island were “no longer in effect”.

The Transport Ministry said in a statement, however, that Taiwan would continue to direct flights and ships away from a Chinese military drill off its eastern coast until 10am local time on Monday morning. 

Earlier in the day, Chinese and Taiwanese warships played high seas “cat and mouse” hours before the scheduled end of four days of unprecedented Chinese military exercises launched in reaction to a visit to Taiwan by the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. 

Mrs Pelosi’s visit had infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over the self-rule island for the first time and the cutting of communication links with the United States. 

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan says it will defend its freedoms and democracy.

On Sunday, some 10 warships each from China and Taiwan sailed at close quarters in the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line, an unofficial buffer separating the two sides, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The island’s Defence Ministry said in a release that multiple Chinese military ships, aircraft and drones were simulating attacks on the island and its navy. It said it had sent aircraft and ships to react “appropriately”.

As Chinese forces “pressed” the line, as they did on Saturday, the Taiwan side stayed close to monitor and, where possible, deny the Chinese the ability to cross, the person said. 

The two sides are showing restraint, the person said, describing the manoeuvres as high seas “cat and mouse”.

“One side tries to cross, and the other stands in the way and forces them to a more disadvantaged position and eventually return to the other side.”

Taiwan said its shore-based anti-ship missiles and its Patriot surface-to-air-missiles were on standby. 

The Chinese exercises, centred on six locations around the island, began on Thursday and are scheduled to last until mid-day on Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported last week. 

China’s military said on Saturday it was conducting sea and air joint exercises north, south-west and east of Taiwan with a focus on testing land strike and sea assault capabilities.

The US called the exercises an escalation.

“These activities are a significant escalation in China’s efforts to change the status quo. They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation,” a White House spokesman said.

“They are also at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is what the world expects.”