Taiwan.— At least 11 Chinese missiles reached the seas north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, celebrated the island as a bastion of democracy along with to autocratic China. The People’s Liberation Army stated that its missiles “hit all their targets accurately”, although five fell in Japanese waters.
The Chinese military called the maneuvers a prelude to a larger show of force aimed at punishing the island for a visit by Pelosi that questioned Beijing’s claims to Taiwan. The exercises, which are drawing ever closer to Taiwan and expected to last 72 hours, will also give Chinese forces valuable practice should they one day be ordered to surround and attack the island.
But tensions could rise dangerously high, especially if something goes wrong.
Top Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said he hopes to end up unifying Taiwan and China through peaceful steps. But, like its predecessors, it has not ruled out the use of force, and China’s military buildup has reached a point where some commanders and analysts think an invasion is an increasingly plausible scenario, albeit still very likely. risky.
Though unlikely, it is leaving the region on edge. And tensions could escalate dangerously, especially if something goes wrong.
The six zones for China’s exercises were chosen because of their importance in a potential campaign to cordon off Taiwan and repel foreign intervention, Maj. Gen. Meng Xiangqing, a strategy professor at the National Defense University in Beijing, said in an interview on Monday. Chinese television.
One zone covers the narrowest part of the Taiwan Strait. Others could be used to blockade a major port or attack three of Taiwan’s main military bases. One of them, facing southern Taiwan, “creates the conditions to close the door and hit the dog,” he said, using a Chinese saying that refers to blocking an enemy’s escape route.
“Everyone can wait and see,” General Meng said. “It is the first time that the military will conduct a joint military operation around the entire island of Taiwan,” he said. “It must be said that, although it is an exercise that resembles a real combat, at any moment it can turn into a real combat.”
“Seize the momentum to surround”, read a slogan used by the ‘People’s Daily’, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, when announcing the start of the drills.
It is unclear how close Chinese forces will get to Taiwan during the exercises, which are scheduled to end on Sunday.
In a possible sign of what to expect, China’s Eastern Theater Command, which covers Taiwan, said it was mobilizing more than 100 fighters, bombers and other aircraft, as well as more than 10 destroyers and frigates, to “carry carry out joint closure and control operations”.
White House and Pentagon officials have been watching the situation closely without explaining how they might respond. A surveillance service run by the United States Naval Institute reported Monday that a strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was in the Philippine Sea, some distance east of Taiwan, and that the USS Tripoli, a assault amphibious, was also in that area. On Thursday there were no announcements about US naval vessels near the Chinese exercises.