Taiwan has cancelled airline flights after China began what could be the biggest military drill of its kind since the mid-1990s near the island. 

It comes after US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan - the first time a House speaker visited the nation in 25 years. 

Why has China started military drills? 

On Thursday, China began military exercises, including missile strike training, in six zones surrounding Taiwan. 

Beijing announced the "live-fire exercises" after Ms Pelosi's one-day visit on Tuesday. 

The visit itself defied warning from China, with the drills following promises of "resolute and strong measures" if the visit took place.

China ordered ships and planes to avoid the military drills that encircled the self-ruled island, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party claims as part of its territory.

The Hong Kong newspaper The South China Morning Post called the drills an “effective Taiwan blockade”.

Why are there tensions between Taiwan and China? 

The two sides spilt in 1949 after a civil war and have no official relations except multibillion-pound business ties in global industries.

The country has long threatened military retaliation over moves by the island to solidify its de facto independence with the support of key allies including the US.

China has increased both diplomatic and military pressure in recent years.

It cut off all contact with Taiwan’s government in 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen refused to endorse its claim that the island and mainland together make up a single Chinese nation, with Communist Beijing the sole legitimate government.

Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as an encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support.

Has it impacted trade? 

China has banned imports of hundreds of Taiwanese food items including fish, fruit and biscuits. 

At least  40 flights to and from Taiwan were cancelled, according to the China Times newspaper.

There was no immediate indication of the possible impact on shipping, which has the potential to jolt the global economy.

Taiwan produces more than half the processor chips used in smartphones, cars, tablet computers and other electronics.

Any significant disruption would “create shockwaves to global industries”, said Rajiv Biswas, of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Some flights to the mainland would detour through Hong Kong, Taiwan’s transport minister Wang Kwo-tsai said on Wednesday.

Fruit, fish and other foods are a small part of Taiwan’s exports to China, but the ban hurts areas that are seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen.

How have other countries reacted? 


A group of 10 south-east Asian countries has called for calm in the Taiwan Strait as it urged against any “provocative action”. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh said they were concerned the situation could “destabilise the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers”.

It was a rare such statement from the 10-nation group, some of whose members drift more toward China in allegiance and some toward the United States.

In their statement, the Asean foreign ministers called for “maximum restraint” and for all sides to “refrain from provocative action”.

“The world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security and inclusive and sustainable development,” they said.

“We should act together and Asean stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties including through utilising Asean-led mechanisms to deescalate tension, to safeguard peace, security and development in our region.”