China conducts ‘precision missile strikes’ in Taiwan Strait

Keelung, Taiwan –

China carried out “precision missile strikes” on Thursday in the Taiwan Strait and in the waters off Taiwan’s east coast as part of military exercises that have raised tensions in the region to their highest level in decades.

China earlier announced that military exercises by its navy, air force and other departments were taking place in six zones around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory to annex by force if necessary.

Five of the missiles fired by China fell inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off its coast, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said that Japan protested the missile launches in China as “serious threats to the national security of Japan and the security of the Japanese people.” The missiles landed off Hateruma, an outer island well removed from Japan’s main islands, he said.

The drills were prompted by a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week and are aimed at announcing China’s threat to attack the autonomous island republic. Along with its moves to diplomatically isolate Taiwan, China has long threatened military retaliation for the island’s moves to cement its de facto independence with the support of key allies, including the US.

China fired long-range explosive shells, 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 it carried out multiple conventional missile launches in three different areas in the eastern waters off Taiwan. An accompanying graphic on state broadcaster CCTV showed they occurred in the north, east and south.

“All the missiles hit the target accurately,” the Eastern Theater said in its announcement. No further details were given.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it tracked China’s Dongfeng-series missile launch as of 1:56 p.m. Thursday. It said in a statement that it used various early warning surveillance systems to track missile launches. He later said he counted 11 Dongfeng missiles in the northern, eastern and southern waters.

The ministry also said it tracked long-distance rocket and ammunition firing on the outlying islands of Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin.

Earlier in the day, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said its forces were on alert and monitoring the situation as they sought to prevent an escalation of tensions. Civil defense drills were held last week and notices were posted at designated bomb shelters months ago.

China’s “irrational behavior” is intended to upset the status quo and disrupt regional peace and stability, the ministry said.

“The three service branches will combine efforts with the entire people to jointly safeguard national security and territorial integrity” while adapting to the situation as it unfolds, the statement said.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that the exercises were joint operations focused on “blockade, assault on sea targets, attack on land targets and airspace control.”

Ma Chen-kun, a professor at Taiwan’s National Defense University, said the drills were aimed at showing the Chinese military’s ability to deploy precision weapons to cut Taiwan’s ties with the outside world and facilitate troop landings.

The announced drills are “more comprehensive” than previous exercises, he said.

“If the People’s Liberation Army really does invade Taiwan in an all-out invasion, the concrete actions it will take will all be in this particular exercise,” Ma said.

“The main thing is that they will cut Taiwan’s links with the outside world, from its sea, they will suppress the firepower of coastal defense,” he said.

Meanwhile, the mood in Taiwan was calm.

In Keelung, a city on Taiwan’s northern coast and close to two of the announced training areas, swimmers took their morning laps in a natural pool built into the ocean.

Lu Chuan-hsiong, 63, was enjoying his morning bath and said he was not worried. “Because Taiwanese and Chinese are one family. There are also many mainlanders here,” he said.

“Everyone should want money, not bullets,” he joked, saying the economy was not doing too well.

Those who have to work in the ocean were more concerned. Fishermen are likely to bear the brunt of the drills, which cover six different areas around Taiwan, part of which reach the island’s territorial waters.

Most anglers will still be trying to fish as it is squid season.

“It’s very close. This will definitely affect us, but if they want to do this, what can we do? We can just avoid that area,” said Chou Ting-tai, a fishing boat owner.

While the US has not said it would intervene, it has bases and assets deployed in the area, including carrier battle groups.

On Thursday, the US Navy said its aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was operating in the Philippine Sea, east of Taiwan, as part of “normal scheduled operations.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the drills on Thursday, saying: “I very much hope that Beijing does not fabricate a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity. We, the countries of the world, believe that the Escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences.” They don’t serve anyone’s interests.”

US law requires the government to treat threats to Taiwan, including blockades, as matters of “serious concern.”

The drills will take place from Thursday to Sunday and will include missile attacks on targets in the island’s north and south seas in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan leaders and voters held 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 is no justification for the exercises. Both ministers attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.

“Japan, along with other members of the G7 and the EU, made an irresponsible statement blaming China and confusing right and wrong,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

While China has not provided information on the number of troops and military assets involved, the exercises could be the largest ever held near Taiwan in geographical terms, experts said.

Troops from the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Logistics Support Force participated in the exercises, Xinhua reported.


AP Writer David Rising in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

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