China Launches 11 Ballistic Missiles Into Waters Around Taiwan
On Thursday, China's People's Liberation Army Rocket Force launched 11 ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan, according to U.S. officials. No damage has been reported.
Taiwan's ministry of defense said in a statement that the missiles landed to the northeast and southwest of the island, consistent with previously-designated exclusion zones, and posed no threat to the public. The ministry released a photo of a Patriot anti-ballistic missile battery and said that its "defense systems have been activated," but it gave no indication that it had fired any interceptor missiles.
According to Japan's defense ministry, five missiles landed inside the Japanese EEZ, including one that passed over the northern tip of Taiwan during its flight. Japan controls several islands just east and north of Taiwan, and its EEZ abuts the Taiwanese exclusive economic zone.
The exercises could have an impact on marine operations. The southwestern drill area is located just 15 nm from the port of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's biggest and busiest seaport. Taiwan's Maritime and Port Bureau has promoted the use of alternate routes in and out of Kaohsiung, Taipei and Keelung to account for the exclusion zones.
Fishermen in some affected areas have decided to stay in port to avoid the risk of an accident, according to Taiwan's CNA news agency, and are taking an economic loss for the time spent in port. Otherwise, "all ports in Taiwan are functioning as normal and the traffic movement in and out of ports is not disrupted," reports marine insurer Gard. Substantial vessel traffic levels were visible near major ports Thursday, based on AIS tracking provided by Pole Star, though primarily made up of smaller local vessels. Anecdotal reports suggest that some shipowners are delaying schedules or rerouting vessels around Taiwan to the east, avoiding the Taiwan Strait until after the drills are over.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen called the missile tests an "irresponsible act" and called for deescalation.
"We call on Beijing to act with reason and exercise restraint. Taiwan will not escalate conflict, but we will resolutely defend our sovereignty, our security and our democracy," she said in a statement.
Speaking to MSNBC on Thursday, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the launches were "concerning."
“One of the things that’s troublesome about exercises like this or missile launches like this is the risk of [mis]calculation, the risk of a mistake that could actually lead to some sort of conflict," he cautioned.
The disruption may not be over yet, as China's military drill warning extends through Sunday.