China’s military on Thursday began unprecedented live-firing drills in six regions surrounding Taiwan, firing missiles from its eastern coast into waters east of the island and putting in place an effective blockade that disrupted flights and shipping.
The drills, which will continue until Sunday, were part of Beijing’s response to Wednesday’s visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“What we are taking and will be taking are a necessary and timely response and countermeasures which have been fully thought through and fully assessed, to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity, in line with international laws, and a warning to provocateurs,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, announcing that Beijing had also called off a meeting set for Thursday between the Foreign Ministers of China and Japan to express its displeasure over a statement by the G7 group of nations that had defended Ms. Pelosi’s visit and criticised China’s actions.
“They clearly believe they live in the time of 120 years ago,” she said, comparing the G7 to the eight-nation alliance that invaded China in 1900. “We no longer live in a world where Imperialist powers can ride roughshod over Chinese people on Chinese land. Today’s China is not the old China of 100 years ago that was humiliated and bullied.”
Show of force
Thursday’s drills, carried out by the PLA Eastern Theater Command, were a show of force aimed as much at Taiwan as at the domestic audience in China, coming after Beijing’s public warnings failed to deter Ms. Pelosi’s visit.
Starting at mid-day on Thursday, the long-range live-fire exercise carried out “precision strikes on specific areas in the eastern part of the Taiwan Strait,” Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the Eastern Theatre Command, said, adding that units of the rocket force conducted a “multi-zone fire assault drill”.
Chinese State media described the drills as “unprecedented” and noted that missiles, fired from the eastern coast of China, had likely flown above the island of Taiwan for the first time, as they had struck targets in waters to the east. Drills included the Dongfeng DF-17 hypersonic missile, State broadcaster China Central Television said.
Chinese media reports said the conventional missile launches had practiced hitting foreign aircraft carriers to test China’s area denial capacities in the event of external intervention in a future conflict.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence said 11 Dongfeng series missiles had been fired into waters north, south and east of the island and marked the first time missiles had been fired over the island. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry called the firing “a provocation” that “is threatening our security, escalating tensions in the region, and interrupting international transportation and trade.”
Chinese analysts said the drills were meant to signal a new normal in China’s military activities around Taiwan. Besides missiles flying over Taiwan, drills also took place within 12 nautical miles in what Taiwan considers its territorial waters. The drills in six regions were meant as an effective blockade, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported, noting that they could be deployed for longer periods in the future should the need arise. Two of the exercise zones were off the coast of the ports of Taipei and Keelung, while the southern and eastern zones were off the ports of Kaohsiung and Hualien. Ships and flights will not be able to enter the waters and airspace in the six regions until the exercises conclude on Sunday.