China conducts live-fire drills over Taiwan Strait as Pelosi begins Asia trip

Footage taken by local residents in Pingtan, southeastern China's Fujian province, right across Taiwan Straits, on Saturday night shows live-fire military exercise held by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the coastal city facing Taiwan, firing Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) rockets and flares at sea and shooting tracer bullets into the sky.

China announced it was holding a military drill around Taiwan on Friday, amid mounting tensions over US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's planned visit to the island nation.

“Live-fire drills will be held and waters near Pingtan in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian province will be sealed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday,” state media said. Pingtan is 125 kilometres from Taiwan.

Pelosi’s tour

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi starts a tour of four Asian countries on Sunday, her office said, without mentioning Taiwan amid intense speculation she might visit the self-ruled island claimed by China. The trip to Taiwan is “tentative” in her schedule.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a Congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan,” her office said in a press release.

The release said the visit would include those countries, but did not specify whether Pelosi, who is number 3 in the line of presidential succession, might make other stops.

If Pelosi goes ahead with the plan, she will be the first sitting US House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, following Republican Newt Gingrich's 1997 trip to meet then-President Lee Teng-hui.

In a briefing on Thursday, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defence Ministry, said the People’s Liberation Army will “never tolerate Taiwan independence separatist acts and external interference.”

China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp in the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

US shows unwavering support for Taiwan

A visit by Pelosi would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of US support for Taiwan.

President Xi Jinping warned his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

On Wednesday, Biden told reporters he thought the U.S. military believed a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now.”

Taiwan's foreign ministry said on Friday after the call between Xi and Biden that Taiwan would continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States.

Chinese air force spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted by state media as saying on Sunday that Beijing would “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Shen said at a military airshow that the air force has many types of fighter jets capable of circling "the precious island of our motherland", referring to Taiwan.

He said China's “air force has the firm will, full confidence and sufficient capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”