KEELANG, Taiwan ( Associated Press) – China on Thursday carried out “precision missile strikes” in the waters off Taiwan’s coast as part of military exercises, raising tensions in the region. At its highest level in decades after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China previously announced that military exercises were underway by its navy, air force and other departments in six areas around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory that would be occupied by force if necessary. .
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles fired by China landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone from Hateruma, an island south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan opposed the missile landing to China as a “serious threat to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people”.
Japan’s defense ministry also estimated that four missiles flew over the capital city of Taipei while crossing the mainland, according to a statement posted to Twitter by its embassy in DC. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry did not refute the claim, saying the flight path was “out of the atmosphere and not harmful to the vast area over which it flies.”
The exercises were inspired by a trip to Taiwan This week is intended to advertise China’s threat to attack Pelosi and the self-governing island republic. Along with its moves to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, China has long threatened military retaliation on the island’s moves to bolster its de facto independence, backed by major allies including the US.
China fired long-range explosive projectiles, the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, said in a statement. It also said that it launched multiple conventional missiles in three different areas in Taiwan’s eastern waters. An accompanying graphic on state broadcaster CCTV showed they took place in the north, east and south.
“All missiles hit the target accurately,” the Eastern Theater said in its announcement. No further details given.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby condemned the launches and military activities around Taiwan.
“China has chosen to use the exaggeration and the speaker’s visit as an excuse to increase provocational military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” he said on Thursday. “We will not be prevented from operating in the seas and skies of the Western Pacific in accordance with international law, as we have for decades to support Taiwan and defend a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it tracked the firing of the Chinese Dongfeng series of missiles at around 1:56 pm on Thursday. It said in a statement that it used various early warning monitoring systems to track missile launches. He later said he counted 11 Dongfeng missiles in the waters to the north, east and south.
The ministry also said it tracked the firing of long-range rockets and ammunition in the outlying islands at Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen criticized the practice in a public video address, saying China had “destroyed the status quo and violated our sovereignty” with its “irresponsible actions”. He urged China to be “reasonable and restrained”.
“We are calm and not impulsive, we are reasonable and not provocateurs,” she said. “But we will also stand firm and will not back down.”
Tsai said Taiwan is in contact with its allies to ensure that things do not escalate.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said its forces were on alert and monitoring the situation to avoid escalating tensions. civil defense exercise were conducted last week and notices were served on designated airstrike shelters months ago.
The ministry said China’s “irrational behavior” intended to change the status quo and disrupt regional peace and stability.
“The three service branches will combine efforts with all people to jointly protect national security and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the exercises were joint operations focused on “blockades, attacks on maritime targets, attacks on ground targets and control of airspace”.
Professor Ma Chen-kun of Taiwan’s National Defense University said the aim of the exercise was to show the capability of the Chinese military. To cut off Taiwan’s external contacts and deploy precision weapons to facilitate the landing of troops.
He said the announced exercises are “more complete” than the previous exercises.
“If the People’s Liberation Army does indeed attack Taiwan in an all-out offensive, the concrete actions it will take are in this particular exercise,” Ma said.
“The main thing is that they will cut off Taiwan’s ties with the outside world from their seas, they will suppress the coastal defense shelling,” he said.
Meanwhile, the mood in Taiwan remained calm.
In Keelung, a city on Taiwan’s north coast and close to two of the declared drill areas, swimmers took their morning laps in a natural pool built into the ocean.
Lu Chuan-hsong, 63, was enjoying his morning swim and said he was not worried. “Because Taiwanese and Chinese, we are all one family. There are also a lot of mainland ones,” he said.
“Everyone needs money, not pills,” he quipped, adding that the economy was not doing so well.
Those who had to work on the sea were more worried. Fishermen are most likely to be affected, covering six different areas around Taiwan, some of which fall into the island’s territorial waters.
Most fishermen will continue to try to catch fish, as this is squid season.
“It’s very close. It will definitely affect us, but if they want to do it, what can we do? We can avoid that area,” said Chow Ting-tai, a fishing vessel are the owners of.
In addition to the missile launch, Taiwan’s defense ministry said 22 Chinese fighter jets crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and flew towards the island.
While the US has not said it will intervene, it does have bases and forward assets in the area, including aircraft carrier battle groups.
On Thursday, the US Navy said its USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was operating as part of “normally scheduled operations” in the Philippine Sea, east of Taiwan.
Addressing the exercise on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “I have great hope that Beijing will not create a crisis or use an excuse to increase its aggressive military activity. We countries around the world believe that the increase does not serve anyone and may have unintended consequences that do not serve anyone’s interests.”
US law requires the government to treat threats, including a blockade, to Taiwan as matters of “grave concern”.
The exercises are scheduled to run from Thursday to Sunday and include missile strikes at sea targets in the north and south of the island, in echoes of the last major Chinese military exercises aimed at intimidating Taiwanese leaders and voters in 1995 and 1996.
On the diplomatic front, China canceled a meeting of foreign ministers with Japan to protest a statement by the Group of Seven countries that there was no justification for the exercise. Both the ministers are attending the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia,
“Japan, along with the G-7 and other members of the European Union, made an irresponsible statement accusing China and confusing right and wrong,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
Experts have said that although China has not given any word on the number of troops and military assets involved, it could be the largest exercise geographically close to Taiwan.
According to the report of Xinhua news agency, soldiers from the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Logistic Support Force were involved in this exercise.
Associated Press writer David Rising in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.