THE China fired missiles that reportedly flew over the Taiwan and fell for the first time in its exclusive economic zone Japanat the start of military exercises around the island, responding to the visit of the president of the American House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosiin Taipei.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called for an “immediate halt” to Chinese military exercises. “China’s actions this time have a serious impact on peace and stability in the region. I appeal for the immediate cessation of these military exercises”he told reporters in Phnom Penh, where he was attending a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Despite stern warnings from China, which considers Taiwan one of its provinces, Nancy Pelosi, one of the highest-ranking US officials, spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the island before starting today on a visit to Japan, the last stop of her Asia tour.
Nancy Pelosi’s initiative is seen by China as a provocation, support for Taiwan’s independence supporters and a breach of the US promise not to have formal relations with the island.
In response, the Chinese military fired a series of missiles that flew over Taiwan before falling for the first time in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the guise of military exercises in six maritime areas around Taiwan – in busy commercial sea lanes – and sometimes just 20 kilometers from the island’s shores.
Four of the five Chinese ballistic missiles that fell into Japan’s EEZ “reportedly flew over the island of Taiwan,” Japan’s defense ministry said.
Characterizing the incident “serious problem affecting our national security and that of our citizens” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi clarified that “Japan protested to China through diplomatic channels”.
For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken underlined that Washington had communicated with Beijing “at all levels of government” in recent days appealing for calm.
“I really hope that Beijing will not provoke a crisis and will not look for a pretext to increase its aggressive military operations,” he told colleagues on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh.
Twenty-two Chinese fighter jets briefly entered Taiwan’s air defense zone today, Taiwan’s defense minister said at a press briefing on Chinese military exercises.
Air defense systems were persistently tracking Chinese aircraft, he added on his website.
The drills, which began early Thursday (4/8) at noon, included “conventional missile fire” off Taiwan’s east coast, said Xi Yi, a spokesman for the Chinese military. “All the missiles hit their target accurately,” he stressed in a statement.
Condemning “senseless actions that undermine regional peace”, Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed that the Chinese military had launched “11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles” between 13:56 and 16:00 local time into waters north, south and east of Taiwan.
Exercises on an unprecedented scale
On Pingtan, a Chinese island near the exercise site, AFP journalists witnessed the launch of several missiles on Thursday afternoon that left plumes of white smoke behind.
In this part of Chinese territory, which is the closest to Taiwan, reporters also saw five military helicopters flying at low altitude near a tourist site.
The Chinese military drills are expected to end at noon on Sunday.
According to the Chinese newspaper Global Times, citing military analysts, the specific exercises are of an “unprecedented” scale.
“If Taiwanese forces come face-to-face (with the Chinese military) and fire by mistake, (the Chinese military) will respond forcefully and it will be up to the Taiwanese side to bear all the consequences,” an unnamed military img in the ranks told AFP. of the Chinese army.
For Beijing, these exercises are “a necessary and legitimate measure” after Nancy Pelosi’s visit.
“In the face of malicious provocations that so blatantly violate China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our countermeasures are justified,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday.
The drills are aimed at simulating a “blockade” of the island and include “attacking targets at sea, striking targets on the ground and controlling airspace,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Although the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, does not seem likely, concern has intensified since the 2016 election of current President Tsai Ing-wen.
Hailing from a pro-independence party, Tsai, unlike the previous government, refuses to recognize that the island and the mainland are part of “one China”.
Visits by foreign officials and parliamentarians have also increased in recent years, angering Beijing.
However, China does not want the existing situation to worsen or get out of control, experts told AFP.
“An accidental war” caused by an incident “is the last thing Xi Jinping wants” ahead of the Chinese Communist Party congress, said Titus Chen, a political science professor at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.
Amanda Hsiao, a China analyst at the International Crisis Group, notes, however, that these drills “represent a clear escalation from the usual Chinese military activities around the island and the last crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 1995-1996 ».
The White House Condemns China’s Missile Launch
The US government has condemned China’s “irresponsible” decision to launch missiles near Taiwan, estimating that it expects Beijing’s reactions to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei to continue in the coming days.
“Beijing’s provocative actions represent a significant escalation in its years-long effort to change the status quo,” said White House National Security Adviser John Kirby.
The United States has decided to postpone an intercontinental ballistic missile test scheduled for the next few days to avoid further escalation of tension. However, the USS Reagan aircraft carrier, which is in the Philippine Sea, “will be monitoring” developments in the Taiwan area, Kerby said during a news conference.
Source: News Beast