Taiwan drills amid Pelosi visit concern

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Taiwan's capital has staged air raid drills and its military mobilised for routine defence exercises, coinciding with concerns over a forceful Chinese response to a possible visit to the island by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

While there was no direct link between China's renewed threats and Taiwan's defensive moves, they underscore the possibility of a renewed crisis in the Taiwan Strait, considered a potential hotspot for conflict that could envelop the entire region.

Air raid sirens were sounded in the capital Taipei on Monday and the military was holding its annual multi-day Han Kuang drills, including joint air and sea exercises and the mobilisation of tanks and troops.

In Taipei, police directed randomly selected subway commuters to shelters when a siren went off shortly after lunchtime. Most departed after about 15 minutes.

Pelosi has not confirmed when, or even if, she will visit, but President Joe Biden last week told reporters that US military officials believed such a trip was "not a good idea".

Administration officials are believed to be critical of a possible trip, both for the problematic timing and the lack of co-ordination with the White House.

China's ruling Communist Party considers democratic, self-ruling Taiwan its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary, and regularly advertises that threat by staging military exercises and flying warplanes into Taiwan's air defence identification zone.

Beijing says those actions are aimed at deterring advocates of the island's formal independence and foreign allies - principally the US - from interfering.

Pelosi, long a sharp critic of Beijing, is second in line to the White House. She is viewed as a Biden proxy by China, which demands members of Congress follow the commitments made by previous administrations.

Taiwan is among the few issues that enjoys broad bipartisan support among lawmakers and within the administration, with Biden stating earlier this year that the US would defend Taiwan if it came under attack.

China's foreign ministry said it would take "resolute and strong measures", but has not specified actions it would take in response to a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi, who would be the highest-ranking elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997.

Speculation has centred on a new round of threatening military exercises or even an attempt to prevent Pelosi's plane from landing by declaring a no-fly zone over Taiwan.

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