China Fires Missiles In Taiwan Strait

Washington is on edge as China readies a series of provocative military drills set to kick off on Thursday in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Beijing has threatened incursions into the island’s territory, and for the first time, conventional missile launches over the island.

The Chinese navy is positioning warships around the island, including its two aircraft carriers that have left port in recent days, in what officials described as a blockade. The Chinese defense ministry released a map of six zones surrounding the island where it plans to conduct the drills, some of which potentially overlap with Taiwan’s territorial waters. The live-fire exercises will begin at noon local time on Thursday and last three days.

Meanwhile, Taiwan was forced to scramble fighter jets on Wednesday to respond to 27 Chinese military aircraft that flew through its air defense zone, a large area that includes Taiwan’s airspace and extends over mainland China, according to its defense ministry, following a similar incursion on Tuesday. Twenty-two of those crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, which sits 12 nautical miles from the shore and separates the island from mainland China.

Crossing the center line is a rare move that Beijing preserves for sending stronger signals, but Beijing has done so before — pushing aircraft over the median line for the first time in 20 years in 2019, and has done so again on several occasions since then.

Officials say they see China’s moves thus far as mostly bluster. But there are signs Beijing is planning more provocative military actions during the upcoming exercise. China has never before flown aircraft or launched missiles into Taiwan’s territorial waters — something that could happen during the drills, said Bonnie Glaser, an East Asia analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Chinese state media, tightly controlled by the ruling communist party, on Wednesday called the exercises “unprecedented” and said the missile launches and naval blockade of the island demonstrate the “Chinese mainland’s absolute control over the Taiwan question.”

The drills will involve China’s most sophisticated military equipment, including J-20 stealth fighters, H-6K bombers, Type 052D destroyers, Type 056A corvettes, DF-11 short-range ballistic missiles, and DF-17 hypersonic missiles, the state-run Global Times reported.