China fired multiple ballistic missiles in the direction of Taiwan on Friday morning, four of which flew over capital city Taipei in an unprecedented escalation, as it continues to carry out the largest ever military drills in the seas and skies surrounding the self-ruled island.
The Taiwanese defence ministry confirmed the firing of missiles over its airspace in the capital but added that the projectiles were high in the atmosphere and did not constitute any threat.
Officials have not provided the details of the flight paths due to intelligence concerns.
The launch of missiles was confirmed by Japan’s defence ministry, which also reported that as many as four missiles flew over Taipei.
Tokyo, which has been monitoring the military drill announced by Beijing till Sunday, added that five of the nine missiles that flew towards its territory landed in its exclusive economic zone.
Additionally, around 10 Chinese navy ships and 20 military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line on Friday morning, according to a Taiwanese source aware of the matter.
Of these, the 10 navy ships remained in the area after crossing the median line, while the 20 Chinese military aircraft briefly crossed it, the person added.
In the face of military escalation, Taiwan’s defence ministry scrambled and dispatched aircraft and ships, and deployed land-based missile systems to oversee the situation there.
Condemning the firing of multiple missiles during live-fire exercises by its “evil neighbour” China, Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang said Beijing is arbitrarily destroying the world’s most frequently used waterway with military exercises.
China’s actions, he said, are being condemned by neighbouring countries and the world.
However, there will be no escalation from Taiwan’s end. President Tsai Ing-Wen said that the Pacific Ocean nation would not provoke conflicts but resort to defend its sovereignty and national security.
The Xi Jinping administration launched its largest ever military drills circling the seas and skies of Taiwan on Thursday, in a likely retaliation of a visit by the US House of representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei on her Asian tour, a diplomatic exercise which has riled China.
Analysts monitoring the Chinese military action, including the bold firing of ballistic missiles over the capital city, have called the move unexpected and a display of China’s power over Taiwan, the self ruled island which Beijing claims as its own.
China has always maintained that its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and that it can bring the former territory under its control by force if required.
"That’s unprecedented. In my view, the larger threat is that China is doing a rehearsal for a blockade, demonstrating it can block Taiwan’s ports and airports, and prevent shipping," said Washington-based Asia security specialist Bonnie Glaser at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The firing of 11 ballistic missiles on Friday was condemned sharply by Washington just hours after which called it a “disproportionate, significant, and unjustified escalation”.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken stressed that the US has made it clear to China repeatedly that it does not seek a crisis.
Washington will not be provoked by China and the US was seriously concerned as “there was no possible justification for what they have done”, Mr Blinken said at a news conference on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional forum.