China has fired several waves of missiles over the Taiwan Strait, hitting targets in the waters that encircle the island of Taiwan after a visit from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi triggered a tense military standoff in the East Asia region.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry confirmed 11 Chinese Dongfeng type missiles were fired in Taiwan's direction between 1:56 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, local time. Taiwan's armed forces said it was on high alert status, monitoring Chinese military activity in the region, and that the island's long-range radar had detected the incoming missiles.
"We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional peace," Taiwan's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Five of the missiles fired landed in waters around Taiwan that are part of the Exclusive Economic Zone that Japan oversees and claims economic rights over, risking drawing Japan, a U.S. ally, into the standoff.
"This is a grave issue that concerns our country's national security and the safety of the people," Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, per Kyodo News.
Japan has steadily taken a more assertive approach to national defense and security during the last two years, in large part due to China's threats to Taiwan.
"We have to protect Taiwan, as a democratic country," Yasuhide Nakayama, Japan's deputy defense minister, said at a conference in June 2021.
Pelosi is scheduled to visit Japan on Friday.
China is in the midst of conducting live-fire military drills in six zones that encircle Taiwan. The joint sea and air exercises kicked off Thursday morning and will continue through at least Aug. 7.
China says it launched multiple fighter jets, bombers, ships and early warning aircraft toward the waters around Taiwan on Thursday morning local time. Taiwan's Defense Ministry said that it detected some of that aircraft, possibly drones, flew above Taiwan's Kinmen Islands, which lie only a few miles off China's eastern coast, and that it fired flares to drive them off.
Since Tuesday, Chinese fighter jets also have been flying sorties over the Taiwan Strait, sometimes even venturing over the median line that separates Chinese-controlled airspace from Taiwan's, according to Taiwan defense forces.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan criticized the Chinese military drills, in an interview with NPR on Wednesday. "It will create risks and challenges, we think unnecessarily. And so what we are hopeful for is that the PRC acts responsibly and avoids the kind of escalation that could lead to a mistake or miscalculation in the air or on the seas," he said.
China has fired missiles at Taiwan before. During what's called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, China repeatedly shelled waters around Taiwan throughout 1995 to 1996. That crisis was sparked by the visit of Taiwan's then-President Lee Teng-hui to the U.S. to speak at Cornell University, over China's objections.