Chinese missile launch over Taiwan ‘significant escalation’

As China’s fury over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan continues unabated, a move by the People’s Liberation Army has heightened concerns over the strained island of 24 million.

As part of the “unprecedented” military exercises in the seas around Taiwan, Beijing is widely believed to have fired several missiles directly over the democratic nation.

While he regularly threatens Taiwan, sending a missile into Taiwanese airspace, over the heads of its people, is a line he has never crossed before.

A Chinese observer said that while tensions in the Taiwan Strait may ease once Beijing calms down, another scenario is ‘mutual escalation’ and the possibility that ‘things could get into a very dangerous spiral’ .

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s foreign minister has warned that China has “expansionary dreams” beyond its island.

Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, stayed less than 24 hours in Taiwan. Despite the short stay, the visit sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between China and the United States in years.

Taiwan has been self-governing for over 70 years and has never been ruled by communist China. But Beijing sees the island as its territory – to be taken, by force, if necessary.

The Chinese government regards any official visit to Taiwan by senior politicians from other countries as a provocation.

Beijing has insisted that Ms Pelosi should not land in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital. When she did, she announced four days of “live-fire” military exercises.

The Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the Chinese mainland is no stranger to military exercises at sea and in the air.

But the current exercises have gone much further than last year. Chinese ships and planes crossed the so-called “median line” which divides the strait between the two nations. It was a line that had been largely toed by Beijing.

A map released by China of the areas where its exercises were taking place and where the missiles could land showed that some were within 12 nautical miles of the Taiwanese coast. This would bring the drills into what would commonly be considered Taiwan’s inland waters.

Images from maritime traffic tracking websites showed commercial vessels conspicuously absent from these areas to avoid getting caught in the fray. Some airlines have canceled flights to Taipei.

China crosses the line with missiles over Taiwan

However, it was the reported missile strikes over Taiwan that rocked Taipei.

Japan’s Defense Ministry says five Chinese missiles landed in waters within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near some of its outer islands. This in itself is a first.

But Japan added that four of them “would have flown over the main island of Taiwan”. He published a map (below) depicting the trajectories of missiles launched from China’s Fujian province. The rockets landed south of his Hateruma Island, passing directly over or near the Taiwanese capital en route.

Although neither Beijing nor Taipei has officially confirmed the missile flyovers, it is openly discussed in China.

“This time, our drills included live fire tests, and it was the first time they crossed the island of Taiwan,” said Meng Xiangqing, a pro-regime professor at the National Defense University of China. , to the public television channel CCTV.

Blinken: China’s “significant escalation”

Speaking at a summit in Cambodia, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the firing over Taiwan and into Japan’s EEZ was a “significant escalation”.

“China should not use (Ms Pelosi’s) visit as a pretext for war, escalation, provocative actions.

“There is no possible justification for what they have done and we urge them to cease these actions.”

Optimistic and pessimistic scenarios

Write on the academic site The conversation Professor Todd Hall, director of the China Center at Britain’s Oxford University, said the current Chinese drills were “unprecedented” and were much closer to Taiwan than a similar flare-up in tensions in the mid-1990s .

At that time, for example, military exercises were largely confined to the Taiwan Strait and did not expand to surround Taiwan as they do today.

Professor Hall said the intensification of military exercises was linked to the upcoming Communist Party Congress in China, where President Xi Jinping will seek to consolidate his power. One way to do this is to take a hard line on Taiwan.

“Given Beijing’s diplomatic playbook, this will likely mean a forceful performance of outrage to impress upon the United States, Taiwan and other potential audiences the sensitivity of the issue.

“The optimistic scenario is that once Beijing feels it has delivered enough of its message, things will calm down.

“The worst-case scenario is that Beijing will take actions that Washington considers too incendiary to go unchallenged, provoking mutual escalation.

“If either side finds itself forced to react to the other’s perceived provocations, things can spiral into a very dangerous spiral.”

Be careful, China will not stop in Taiwan

The war of words at least continues unabated, with Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang calling Beijing an “evil neighbor”.

“(We) didn’t expect the wicked next door neighbor to show his power at our doorstep and arbitrarily endanger the world’s busiest waterways with his military drills.”

While Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told the BBC Beijing’s territorial ambitions did not stop at Taiwan.

“Look at their behavior over Hong Kong, or claiming the East China Sea and the South China Sea. This is the typical expansionism of an authoritarian state.

“Taiwan will not be the last piece of China’s dream of expansionism.”

For its part, Beijing said it was the United States that escalated the tension with Ms Pelosi’s visit.

“It’s the US side that’s the troublemaker,” Jing Quan, an official at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told reporters.

“The only way out of this crisis is for the US side to take immediate action to rectify its mistakes and eliminate the grave impact of Pelosi’s visit.”

Pelosi defends visit to Taiwan

But Ms Pelosi is adamant her landing in Taiwan was justified in the face of growing demands from Beijing for the island to submit to communist rule.

“This is about Taiwan, and I’m proud to have worked over the years to show the concerns they have with mainland China,” she said in Tokyo.

“We will not allow China to isolate Taiwan. They are not making our travel schedule.

Officials in Taipei, Tokyo and Washington will nervously skim the skies above Taiwan, hoping that the Chinese missiles will be unique and not regular.

Originally published as China’s missile launch directly over Taiwan is a ‘significant escalation’