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China fires missiles in ‘unprecedented drills’ around Taiwan

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Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan Island, one of closest points to Taiwan in mainland China
Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan Island, one of closest points to Taiwan in mainland China

China has fired several ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan as it launched large-scale military exercises in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island.

Chinese state media said the live-fire drills in six areas around Taiwan got under way at noon local time (04:00 GMT) on Thursday and will continue until the same time on Sunday.

Senior Colonel Shi Yi, the spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement carried by state media that rocket forces in multiple locations on the mainland launched several types of missiles into designated waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan.

The missiles carried conventional warheads and all of them hit their targets accurately, he said, adding that the aim of the drills was to test the precision of the weapons and ability to deny an enemy access to or control of an area.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense confirmed the launches, identifying them as Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles. It said the weapons were fired into waters to the northeast and southwest of Taiwan at about 1:56pm local time (05:56 GMT), and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”.

china taiwan missiles

The six areas around Taiwan where China is holding live-fire military exercises until Sunday

Japan’s defence minister said on Thursday that five of the ballistic missiles fired by China were believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Tokyo had “lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels” over the incident, Nobuo Kishi told reporters.

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He added it was the first time Chinese ballistic missiles had landed in Japan’s EEZ, which extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the country’s coastline, beyond the limits of its territorial waters.

The last time China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan was in 1996, in the run-up to the re-election of President Lee Teng-hui, who had visited the United States the previous year. Beijing, which had threatened “serious consequences” over Pelosi’s visit, claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island.

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Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on Wednesday was the first by a sitting speaker of the House, the third most senior politician in the US, in 25 years.

The US, while having formal diplomatic relations with China, follows a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan and is bound by law to provide the island of 23 million people with the means to defend itself.

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