Unverified videos of Chinese military hardware on the move have appeared online ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan
Numerous armored vehicles, helicopters and other military hardware have been spotted in China’s Fujian Province, just across the strait from Taiwan, according to unverified videos posted on social media on Tuesday.
The alleged armed buildup comes amid media reports that US House speaker Nancy Pelosi will arrive on the self-governed island, which Beijing views as part of its territory, later in the day.
Videos on social media – purportedly shot in Fujian – showed long rows of armored vehicles and military trucks moving along the local roads. Tanks were also filmed being transported by trucks with semi-trailers.
The railway was apparently also used as part of the deployment, with one clip showing what looks like a Dong-Feng 15 short-range ballistic missile on the move.
Beach-goers in Fujian have also captured dozens of armored vehicles making their way through the sand, and helicopters flying above the sea. It appears the authorities decided not to close down the beaches, with the military simply warning people to make way for the hardware, via loudspeakers.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) earlier announced the launch of military exercises in the South China Sea, which includes the Taiwan Strait, from midnight on Tuesday. The war games are scheduled to run until Saturday, August 6.
On Saturday, the PLA held large-scale exercises with live-fire drills off the coast of Fujian Province.
Beijing has been angered by reports that Pelosi’s Asian tour could include a stop in Taiwan, calling the possible trip a “dangerous and provocative” and promising to act in order to prevent it from happening.
Despite Taipei not being among the official destinations of the House speaker’s tour, US and Taiwanese officials have told the media that she could land on the island on Tuesday.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian issued a warning to the US over the likely visit, stating that “if you play with fire, you will get burned.”
A Chinese military expert told state-run newspaper the Global Times on Tuesday that the PLA’s “warplanes may fire shells diagonally ahead of Pelosi's plane as a further warning” if Pelosi’s aircraft tries to approach the island.
A US Navy strike group, led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, has been spotted in the waters of the Philippines not far from Taiwan on Monday. Media reports have also claimed that Pelosi’s plane could be escorted by military jets if she decides to go ahead with the visit.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, but never officially declared independence from China. Despite officially recognizing Beijing as the sole legitimate authority in China since 1979, the US maintains strong unofficial ties with island of 23.5 million, selling state-of-the-art weapons to Taipei and supporting its push for sovereignty, much to the displeasure of the Chinese authorities.