China fired ‘multiple’ ballistic missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan

China on Thursday fired missiles and deployed fighter jets and ships in the waters around Taiwan, the first day of unprecedented military exercises around the island to protest Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.

• Read also: 27 Chinese military aircraft enter Taiwan air defense zone

• Read also: European Union condemns China’s ‘aggressive’ maneuvers around Taiwan

Despite strong warnings from Beijing, which considers Taiwan as one of its provinces, the speaker of the American House of Representatives, a critic of China, stayed on the island on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The initiative of Ms. Pelosi, the highest elected American official to visit Taipei in 25 years, is considered by Beijing as a provocation and a reneging of the promises made by the United States to China.

In response, the Chinese military has launched a series of military exercises in six sea areas all around Taiwan, along busy trade routes and sometimes just 20 kilometers from Taiwan’s shores.

The maneuvers, which began at noon Thursday (0400 GMT), included “conventional missile fire” at waters off the east coast of Taiwan, spokesman Shi Yi said in the followingnoon. Chinese military forces.

“All missiles hit their target with precision, testing precision strike and access denial capabilities” to the area, he said in a statement.

Condemning “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense confirmed that the Chinese army had fired “11 ballistic missiles” of the Dongfeng type “between 1:56 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. in waters to the north, south and eastern Taiwan.

He did not say whether or not they flew over the island.

In Pingtan, a Chinese island located near the maneuvers in progress, AFP journalists saw several projectiles fly into the sky on Thursday followingnoon following detonations, leaving behind plumes of white smoke.


AFP

In the closest mainland location to Taiwan, reporters also spotted five military helicopters flying low near a seaside tourist spot.

The Chinese military exercises are due to end at noon on Sunday.


AFP

According to the Chinese newspaper Global Timeswhich quotes military analysts, these maneuvers are of an “unprecedented” scale because missiles will fly over Taiwan for the first time.

“If the Taiwanese forces voluntarily come into contact with (the Chinese army) and accidentally fire a shot, (the Chinese army) will retaliate vigorously and it will be up to the Taiwanese side to bear all the consequences” , told AFP an anonymous military source within the Chinese army.


AFP

The authorities of the island condemned the military exercises, “an irrational act aimed at challenging the international order”, according to them.

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For Beijing, these maneuvers – as well as others, more limited, started in recent days – are “a necessary and legitimate measure” following Ms. Pelosi’s visit.

“It is the United States that is the provocateurs, and China that is the victim. China is in self-defense,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

The drills aim to simulate a “blockade” of the island and include “assaulting targets at sea, striking targets on the ground and controlling airspace”, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Major Taiwanese government websites were temporarily inaccessible during Nancy Pelosi’s visit, Taiwan authorities say, blaming cyberattacks linked to China and Russia.

If the hypothesis of an invasion of Taiwan, populated by 23 million inhabitants, remains unlikely, it has increased since the election in 2016 of the current president Tsai Ing-wen.

Coming from an independence party, Ms. Tsai refuses, unlike the previous government, to recognize that the island and the continent are part of “one China”.

Visits by foreign officials and parliamentarians have also increased in recent years, provoking the ire of Beijing.

In response, President Xi Jinping’s China, which wants to be intractable on questions of sovereignty, seeks to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and exerts increasing military pressure on the island.

However, China has no desire for the current situation to degenerate, experts told AFP.

“An accidental war” caused by an incident “is the last thing Xi Jinping wants” before the CCP congress, said Titus Chen, professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.

Amanda Hsiao, China analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank, notes, however, that these exercises “represent a marked escalation from the norm of Chinese military activities around Taiwan and the last crisis in the Taiwan Straits in 1995-1996”.

And “by doing so, Beijing indicates that it rejects any sovereignty” of the Taiwanese authorities on the island, she underlines.

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