China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days, while announcing sanctions on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her visit to the self-governing island earlier this week.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Friday that fighters, bombers, destroyers and frigates were all used in what it called “joint blockage operations” taking place in six zones off the coast of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

The military’s Eastern Theater Command also fired new versions of missiles it said hit unidentified targets in the Taiwan Strait “with precision.”

The Rocket Force also fired projectiles over Taiwan into the Pacific, military officers told state media, in a major ratcheting up of China’s threats to attack and invade the island.

The drills, which Xinhua described as being held on an “unprecedented scale,” are China’s response to a visit this week by Pelosi to Taiwan. The speaker is the highest ranking U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China announced unspecified sanctions on Pelosi and her family. Such sanctions are generally mostly symbolic in nature.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that Pelosi had disregarded China’s serious concerns and resolute opposition to her visit. It called Pelosi’s visit provocative and said it undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China opposes Taiwan having its own engagements with foreign governments.

On the Chinese coast across from Taiwan, tourists gathered Friday to try to catch a glimpse of any military aircraft heading toward the exercise area.

Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, “Let’s take Taiwan back,” looking out into the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan island, a popular scenic spot in Fujian province.

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Pelosi’s visit stirred emotions among the Chinese public and the government’s response “makes us feel our motherland is very powerful and gives us confidence that the return of Taiwan is the irresistible trend,” said Wang Lu, a tourist from the neighboring Zhejiang province.

China is a “powerful country and it will not allow anyone to offend its own territory,” said Liu Bolin, a high school student who is visiting the island.

His mother, Zheng Zhidan, was somewhat more circumspect.

“We are compatriots and we hope to live in peace,” Zheng said. “We should live peacefully with each other.”

China’s insistence that Taiwan is its territory and threat to use force to bring it under its control has featured highly in ruling Communist Party propaganda, the education system and the entirely state-controlled media for the more than seven decades since the sides divided amid civil war in 1949.

Island residents overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demands that Taiwan unify with the mainland under Communist control.

On Friday morning, China sent military ships and war planes across the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said, crossing what had for decades been an unofficial buffer zone between …read more

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