China says it carried out “precision missile strikes” in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday as part of military exercises that have raised tensions in the region to their highest level in decades.
China earlier announced that military exercises by its navy, air force and other departments were underway in six areas surrounding Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory to annex by force if necessary.
The drills were sparked by a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week and are meant to announce China’s threat to attack the self-governing island. Along with its moves to diplomatically isolate Taiwan, China has long threatened military retaliation against steps the island has taken to cement its de facto independence with the backing of key allies including the United States.
“Live-fire, long-range precision missile strikes were carried out on selected targets in the eastern area of the Taiwan Strait,” said the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of the ruling Communist Party, in a statement on its social policy. media platform.
“The expected result has been achieved,” he added. No other details were given.
Taiwanese forces on high alert
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it tracked Chinese Dongfeng-series missile fire starting Thursday at around 1:56 p.m. local time. It said in a statement that it used various early warning surveillance systems to track the missile launches, which were aimed at waters northeast and southwest of Taiwan.
Earlier in the day, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said its forces were on high alert and monitoring the situation, while seeking to avoid an escalation of tensions. Civil defense exercises were also held and notices were placed on designated air raid shelters.
China’s “irrational behavior” is aimed at changing the status quo and disrupting regional peace and stability, the ministry said.
“The three service branches will join hands with all the people to jointly safeguard national security and territorial integrity” while adapting to the situation as it develops, the statement said.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that the drills were joint operations focusing on “blockading, assaulting sea targets, striking ground targets and controlling airspace”.
Although the United States has not said it will intervene, it has bases and forward deployed assets in the region, including aircraft carrier battle groups. US law requires the government to treat threats against Taiwan, including blockades, as matters of “grave concern”.
The exercises are due to run from Thursday to Sunday and include missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters in 1995 and 1996.
Although China has given no word on the number of troops and military assets involved, the exercises appear to be the largest held near Taiwan in geographical terms.
The drills involved troops from the navy, air force, rocket force, strategic support force and logistics support force, Xinhua reported.