Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) rocket forces launched multiple ballistic missiles toward Taiwan and Japan on Thursday. The missile drills came a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Senior Colonel Shi Yi, of the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, announced on Thursday that “combat units of the rocket force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command conducted a multi-zone fire assault drill in the predetermined sea areas of the open waters off eastern Taiwan Island on the afternoon of August 4.”
Yi said PLA forces fired multiple types of unspecified conventional missiles and they all accurately hit their targets. He did not specify the exact types of missiles used.
The Ministry of National Defense for the Republic of China (the formal name of the Taiwanese government) said PLA forces fired at least 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles.
“PLA has launched multiple DF ballistic #missiles at our NE and SW waters since 13:56,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry tweeted. “#ROCArmedForces have monitored the situation with various means, while our defense systems have been activated. We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional peace.”
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters that at least five Chinese missiles were also fired toward Japan and landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The EEZ extends 200 nautical miles out from the Japanese coastline.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said all five Chinese missiles landed in waters southwest of Hateruma Island in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan Times reported.
“This is a grave issue that concerns our country’s national security and people’s safety,” Kishi said.”
Thursday’s missile drills were the first the PLA held in the Taiwan strait since 1996, according to Reuters.
Yi claimed the missile drills “verified” the accuracy and area denial capabilities of Chinese rocket forces.
While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China considers the island a part of its territory. Chinese officials repeatedly said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would violate Chinese sovereignty and would illicit a “strong” response from the Chinese side.
Thursday’s missile launches are part of a larger set of drills China suddenly announced on Tuesday, around the same time Pelosi and her congressional delegation landed in Taipei. The drills will effectively surround Taiwan on all sides with PLA live-fire activity.
Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday, but the Chinese military drills will last from Thursday through Sunday.
It’s not clear if China intends for these live-fire drills to serve as their full “strong” response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, or if China intends to take further actions directly against the U.S.
It’s also unclear if the Chinese military drills may serve as a pretext for a more direct military confrontation with Taiwan.