PINGTAN, CHINA    -   China fired ballistic missiles and deployed fighter jets and warships on Thursday as it held its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan, a show of force sparked by US House Speaker Nancy Pe­losi’s visit to the island.

Pelosi was the highest-profile US official to visit Taiwan in years, de­fying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which views the self-ruled island as its territory.

In retaliation, China launched a series of exercises in multiple zones around Taiwan, straddling some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the island’s shore.

The drills began around 12 noon local time (0400 GMT), and involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Tai­wan, the Chinese military said.

Taiwan said the Chinese mili­tary fired 11 Dongfeng-class bal­listic missiles “in several batches” and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that under­mine regional peace”.

Taipei did not say where the mis­siles landed or whether they flew over the island.