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China’s missile launches and drills are taking place in some of the world’s busiest waterways, causing disruption to shipping lanes and flights to and from Taiwan. And in a huge escalation of tension after US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, almost two dozen Chinese Air Force planes entered Taiwan’s air defence zone, while ten Chinese navy ships sailed over the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
And the Taiwanese deployed flares to to drive away four drones that flew above the area of its Kinmen islands.
Japan’s defence ministry said five missiles launched by China during the drills had fallen into its exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles – or 370km -from Japan’s coast.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said: “I hope very much that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity.”
“We countries around the world believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen criticised the drills in a public video address, saying China “destroyed the status quo and violated our sovereignty” with its “irresponsible actions”.
She urged Beijing to be “reasonable and restrained”, adding: “We are calm and not impulsive, we are reasonable and not provocative. But we will also be firm and not back down.”
Ms Tsai said Taiwan is in communication with its allies to ensure things do not escalate further.
The Taiwanese foreign ministry said it “strongly condemns” Beijing for “following the example of North Korea in willfully test-firing missiles into waters near other countries.”
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army launched 11 Dongfeng series ballistic missiles into the waters north-east and south-west of Taiwan’s main island.
And Japan’s defence ministry said four of the five missiles that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island.”
Tokyo said the missiles were launched from the Fujian Province, inland China and the Zhejiang coast.
Five of the missiles landed off Hateruma, an outer island quite far from the main islands of Japan.
Defence minister Nobuo Kishi said that Tokyo protested to China over the “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported the exercises were joint operations focused on “blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, and air space control.”
Ma Chen-kun, a professor at Taiwan’s National Defence University, said the drills were aimed at showing off the Chinese military’s ability to deploy precision weapons to cut off Taiwan’s links with the outside and facilitate the landing of troops.
The announced drills are “more complete” than previous exercises, he added.
“If the People’s Liberation Army actually invades Taiwan in an all-out invasion, the concrete actions it will take, it’s all in this particular exercise,” Mr Ma said.
“The main thing is they will cut off Taiwan’s links to the outside world, from their sea, they would suppress the coastal defence firepower,” he said.
Taipei also called on the international community to “condemn China’s military coercion.”
A Taiwanese official said about ten Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line – the informal line dividing Chinese and Taiwanese territorial waters – before they were “driven away” by Taiwanese navy boats. “They sneaked in, and were driven away by us,” they said.
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