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Reports: Chinese fighter jets headed to Taiwan Strait as Pelosi lands

A SU-35 fighter jet in flight. (Aleksandr Markin, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
August 02, 2022

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Chinese fighter jets were reported flying toward Taiwan on Tuesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei.

China’s state-run CGTN new channel reported Su-35 fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait at around 10:20 p.m. local time (around 10:20 a.m. EST). The report came around the same time Pelosi landed in Taipei.

On the Chinese social media app Weibo, the state-run CCTV Military account also reported Chinese Su-35 fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait.

The Taiwanese military disputed Chinese claims that advanced Su-35 fighter jets were flying toward the island, but did say other Chinese warplanes were active in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan TVBS News reporter Tingting Liu tweeted, “BREAKING: [Taiwanese Ministry of Defense] spokesperson Li-Fang Sun just confirmed to me that ‘no Su-35 has crossed the Taiwan Strait’, but acknowledged that other types of PLA aircrafts did. The Defence Ministry is currently handling the situation.”

On Monday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported four J-16 Chinese fighter jets flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

Reuters reported several Chinese military aircraft buzzed the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday. The median line marks the approximate halfway point of the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.

The Chinese military has been amassing troops, armored vehicles, warships and other military equipment near Taiwan on Tuesday in the buildup to Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei.

Posts on the Chinese WeChat social media app also showed a column of Chinese armored fighting vehicles driving along a beach in Xiamen, which is just across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan.

Other posts showed tanks and other Chinese military vehicles driving through the streets of Xiamen and being transported by rail.

Both the Southern and Eastern Theater Commands of the Chinese military began military drills on Tuesday.

Deng Xijun, the Chinese ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tweeted, “According to Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, #China will hold MILITARY EXERCISES in the #SouthChinaSea from August 2-6. Entry will be prohibited.”

On the Chinese social media app Weibo, the state-run CCTV Military account reported “a number of speedboats from a missile speedboat brigade of the navy in the Eastern Theater Command formed a formation to conduct live-fire drills. The formation practiced subjects such as air defense, anti-reconnaissance, air and missile defense, long-range sea strikes, and damage control.”

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command’s area of responsibility covers the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea, encapsulating the area north and east of Taiwan. The Chinese military’s Southern Theater Command covers the South China Sea, which is the sea region west of Taiwan.

The extensive Chinese military drills come as Pelosi is expected to land in Taipei late on Tuesday evening.

Though Taiwan governs itself as a de facto independent nation, China considers the island a part of its territory. Multiple Chinese officials have already said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would violate Chinese sovereignty.

Chinese officials have also repeatedly threatened that China will respond with “strong” measures if Pelosi goes through with her Taiwan visit

Hu Xijin, a former editor-in-chief and current commentator at the Chinese state-run Global Times tweeted new threats of Chinese military action on Tuesday. “Based on what I know, in response to Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan, Beijing has formulated a series of countermeasures, including military actions.”

Earleir on Tuesday. Liu reported that the website for the Taiwanese Presidential Office had gone done due to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyber attack.

“BREAKING: Taiwan’s Presidential Office just confirmed that at around 17:15 local time, the Presidential Office’s website was hit by an overseas DDoS attack,” Liu tweeted. “The attack traffic was 200 times that of a normal day, causing the official website to be down for 20 minutes.”

“The spokesperson stressed they will continue to strengthen their monitoring to ensure the security and the stable operation of key infrastructure,” Liu added.

It was not immediately clear if the DDoS attack was linked to the Chinese military buildup near Taiwan, but the event came just hours before Pelosi was expected to arrive in Taipei.

On Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the Chinese military is closely watching Pelosi’s travel. Zhao also said the will of the Chinese people “cannot be defied” and “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Zhao added that the Chinese military “never sit idly by.”