China fired this Thursday ballistic missiles and deployed aircraft and warships around Taiwan, on the first day of its military exercises, the most important in decades against the island to protest the visit of the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
These are exercises with live ammunition largest ever made by Beijing. They will last four days and raise fears that a miscalculation could unleash a disaster in one of the hottest parts of the planet, with the US Navy sailing nearby and commercial fleets passing through.
Despite warnings from Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory, Pelosi, second in the line of presidential succession, made a lightning visit to Taipei, in which she assured that the United States “will not abandon” Taiwan.
China considered the initiative of the American legislator as a provocation and vowed to punish those who offended her by announcing these military exercises in the waters around Taiwan.
A note from The New York Times warns this Thursday that China’s current display of power is not just a “show” of military muscle, it is an excellent opportunity for Beijing to rehearse an invasion. of the islanda target on Xi Jinping’s head.
The maneuvers, which began on Thursday at local noon, included “conventional missile fire” into the waters off the eastern shores of Taiwansaid Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Chinese military.
Video capture shows the launch of a Chinese missile. Photo: AP
“All missiles hit the target accuratelyColonel Shi added.
For its part, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense confirmed that the Chinese army had fired Dongfeng-type ballistic “11 missiles” “between 13:56 and 16:00 in the waters north, south and east of Taiwan.”
They are “irrational actions that undermine regional peace“, condemned the ministry, which did not specify if the projectiles flew over the island.
In Pingtan, a Chinese island located near the area of the exercises, AFP journalists saw several unidentified projectiles rise into the sky at around 1:13 p.m., followed by a trail of white smoke.
In this area, the closest to Taiwan, reporters also saw five military helicopters flying low near a tourist spot. For tourists, the maneuvers were quite a spectacle.
the maneuvers They should be finished on Sunday.
Missiles over Taiwan
According to the Chinese newspaper Global Times, which cites military analysts, these operations are an “unprecedented” size since the missiles they are going to fly over taiwan for the first time.
Beijing defended the exercises, as well as other maneuvers in recent days, as “just and necessary” and blamed the United States and its allies for the escalation.
Chinese helicopters participate in the maneuvers. Photo: Hector Retamal / AFP
“In the current fight over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the United States is the provocateur and china the victim“said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
A Chinese military source told AFP that the exercises they are performed “in preparation for actual combat”.
“If Taiwanese forces come into contact with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and accidentally fire a weapon, the PLA will take severe action and all consequences will be on the Taiwanese side,” the Chinese Armed Forces added. Although everything indicates that it would be the other way around.
The exercises seek to simulate a “blockade” of the island and include “the assault of targets at sea, the attack of targets on land and the control of airspace,” according to the official Xinhua agency.
The island’s authorities condemned the maneuvers, calling them “an irrational act that wants to challenge the international order.”
The hypothesis of an invasion of Taiwan, with 23 million inhabitants, is unlikely. But, since the election in 2016 of the current president, Tsai Ing-wen, the threats to carry it out They are increasing.
Tsai, what belongs to a pro-independence party unlike the previous government, it refuses to recognize that the island and the mainland are part of “one China”.
In recent years, visits to Taipei by foreign officials and legislators have multiplied, which has increased Beijing’s indignation.
In response, China has sought isolate Taiwan diplomatically and has increased military pressure against the island.
However, analysts maintain that China is not seeking to escalate the situation beyond its control, at least for now.
“The last thing Xi wants is for an explosion an accidental war”estimates Titus Chen, associate professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan.
But for Amanda Hsiao, China analyst for the International Crisis Group, “the announcement of the Chinese military exercises represents a clear climb of the current base of Chinese military activities around Taiwan and of the last crisis in the Taiwan Strait of 1995-1996″.
“By acting like this, Beijing indicates that it rejects any sovereignty” of the Taiwanese authorities,” it adds.
With information from AFP