China fires missiles off Taiwan coast as live fire drills intensify

China’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement that several missiles were fired into the sea off eastern Taiwan. It said that all missiles accurately hit the target.

“The entire live-fire training mission has been successfully completed, and the relevant control of the air and sea area has now been lifted,” China said in a statement. Earlier, the Eastern Theater Command said it conducted long-range live firing in the Taiwan Strait, state broadcaster CCTV reported, as part of a planned military exercise around the island.

Taiwan reported that Chinese long-range missiles fell near its islands of Matsu, Wuqiu, Dongyin, which are in the Taiwan Strait but are closer to the mainland than Taiwan’s main island. He later reported that on Thursday, a total of 11 Dongfeng (DF) missiles were fired into the waters north, south and east of the island between 1:56 pm and 4:00 pm local time (1:56 am to 4:00 am ET). time).

Chinese state media reported that exercises to simulate an air and sea “blockade” around Taiwan began on Wednesday, but provided little hard evidence to support the claim. Later Thursday, images showed military helicopters flying past Pingtan Island, one of Taiwan’s closest points to mainland China.

The military posture was a deliberate show of strength after Pelosi left the island on Wednesday night, bound for South Korea, one of the last stops on an Asian tour that ends in Japan this weekend.

The island’s defense ministry said within hours of her departure from Taipei on Wednesday, China sent over 20 fighters cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait.an intermediate point between the mainland and Taiwan, which Beijing says Beijing does not recognize but generally respects.
Tourists watch as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest points to Taiwan, August 4, 2022.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said its military maintains a “normal” but watchful stance and called the live-fire exercise an “irrational act” aimed at “changing the status quo.”

“We are closely monitoring enemy activities in the Taiwan Sea and outlying islands and will act accordingly,” the ministry said in a statement.

Taiwan also accused China of “following North Korea’s lead in arbitrarily test-firing missiles in waters close to other countries,” in a statement released by its foreign ministry on Thursday.

The exercise caused disruptions to flight and ship schedules, with some international flights being canceled and ships being asked to use alternative routes for several ports around the island.

Pressure exercises

Long before Pelosi’s nearly 24-hour visit to Taiwan, China warned that her presence was unwelcome. The ruling Chinese Communist Party considers the self-ruled island to be its own territory, despite never having controlled it.

China has released a map showing six zones around Taiwan that will be the site of the exercise in the coming days. But on Thursday The Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau said in a notice that China has added a seventh military exercise area for ships and aircraft to avoid “in the waters around eastern Taiwan.”

Chinese state media on Thursday outlined a wide range of targets for the exercise, including strikes against land and sea targets.

“The exercises focus on key training, including joint blockade, assault on naval targets, strikes against ground targets and airspace control operations, and the joint combat capabilities of the troops were tested during the fighting,” the message says. The Xinhua news agency links this to the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Command (PLA), which is responsible for areas near Taiwan.

Chinese military helicopters fly over Pingtan Island in Fujian province.  four.

Meanwhile, the tabloid Global Times reported that the exercise involved some of China’s latest and most advanced weapons, including J-20 stealth fighters and DF-17 hypersonic missiles, and that some of the missiles could be fired over the island. it would be extremely provocative.

“The exercise is unprecedented as it is expected that conventional PLA missiles will fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time,” the Global Times reported, citing experts.

PLA forces will enter areas within 12 nautical miles of the island, and the so-called median line will cease to exist.”

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Reports from Taiwan of Chinese military movements included fighter jets crossing the median line and a report from Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency, citing government sources, that two of China’s most powerful warships, Type 55 destroyers, were spotted off the coast Tuesday. the central and southeastern coasts of the island, the nearest being within 37 miles (60 kilometers) of land.

But there has been little corroboration or hard evidence provided by China to support the claims published in the Global Times.

China’s state television aired video of the takeoff of fighter jets, ships at sea and moving missiles, but the date the video was filmed could not be ascertained.

Some analysts were skeptical that Beijing would be able to carry out what they were threatening, such as a blockade of Taiwan.

“The official announcement[of the blockade]is only a few days old, making it difficult to qualify as a blockade in practice,” said Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College London.

“Blockades are difficult to implement and long to carry out. This exercise is not right,” he said.

Patalano said the biggest impact of exercise would be psychological.

“During the time period under review, ships and aircraft will likely change routes to avoid the area, but that is one of the main goals of the selected locations: to create interference, discomfort and fear of the worst,” he said.

Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest points to Taiwan, August 4, 2022.

Aircraft and ship redirection

China’s retaliatory exercises have already caused disruptions to flight and ship schedules in Taiwan, although the island is trying to reduce their impact.

Taiwan’s transport minister said the agreements were reached with Japan and the Philippines to divert 18 international flight routes departing from the island, affecting about 300 flights in total, to avoid PLA live fire exercises.

Korean Air told CNN on Thursday that it had canceled flights from Incheon to Taiwan scheduled for Friday and Saturday due to security concerns while China conducts military exercises. Flights will resume on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau issued three notices asking ships to use alternative routes for seven ports around the island.

China’s planned live-fire exercises have also raised concerns in Japan.

Hirokazu Matsuno, chief cabinet secretary of Japan, said the exercise posed a threat to his country’s security.

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One of China’s six exercise sites was located near the Japanese island of Yonaguni, part of Okinawa Prefecture, and only 68 miles (110 km) off the coast of Taiwan.

The same Chinese exercise zone is also close to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, a rocky uninhabited chain known in China as the Diaoyu, over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

“In particular, a training ground has been set up in the waters near Japan, and if China conducts live ammunition exercises in such an area, it could affect the security of Japan and its people,” Matsuno said.

Meanwhile, the US military remained silent on the Chinese exercises and did not provide any answers to questions from CNN on Thursday.

Pelosi with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on August 2.  3.

In addition to closely monitoring Chinese military movements around the island, Taiwan also said it would step up defenses against cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.

Taiwanese cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said at a press conference on Wednesday that the government has tightened security at key infrastructure points and increased cybersecurity levels in government offices.

Taiwan expects the “cognitive warfare” to intensify, referring to disinformation campaigns used to influence public opinion, Lo said.

Wayne Chang and Eric Cheung of CNN contributed to this report.