Message from Chinese missile launched over Taiwan

Launching a missile over the island of Taiwan into the Sea of ​​Japan, Beijing appears to be sending a message to Tokyo and Washington amid the tension in the strait.

Japan said on August 4 that five ballistic missiles China launched during an exercise near Taiwan had fallen into the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Four of them were launched over the island of Taiwan before crashing into the waters southwest of Hateruma Island in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture. This is the first time Chinese ballistic missiles have landed in this area.

Immediately after the incident, Japan “protested to China through diplomatic channels”, demanded that Beijing “immediately stop” the live-fire drill near Taiwan, and called this a “serious matter”. important to the national security as well as the safety of the people”.

According to observers, China’s move has sent a warning message to both Japan and the US, its closest ally, if they support Taiwan in the event of tension between Beijing and Beijing. Taipei peaked.

A photo released by the Chinese military shows a missile being launched into an area off the east coast of Taiwan.  Photo: Command of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese army.

A photo released by the Chinese military shows ballistic missiles being fired during drills on Aug. Image: Command of the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army.

Thomas G. Mahnken, a former Pentagon official and president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said that Beijing seems to want to remind Washington that its missiles can not only cover all of the above targets. Taiwan, but also reminded the Japanese that the US military presence on the island of Okinawa made Japan a potential target.

Analysts also say that China’s military exercises in the waters around Taiwan also appear to be aimed at changing the status quo in the region.

“This exercise will only last three days, but such large-scale military operations are likely to become more frequent in the next few years,” said Tetsuo Kotani, a professor of international relations at the University Meikai, a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Relations, predicted.

However, some analysts say that if Beijing’s calculus is to deter Tokyo, the latest missile launches could backfire.

Given Beijing’s increasingly aggressive military moves and the fall of Chinese missiles in the EZZ, Tokyo may consider investing more heavily in defense capabilities, said Yuki Tatsumi, Japan program director at the EZZ. The Stimson Center, based in Washington, commented.

For many years, Japan has been carefully monitoring the growing military power of its neighboring country and has begun to plan to invest more in defense and work more closely with allies and partners to counter important to China, while gradually reducing dependence on Washington for security.

The policy of increasing military capabilities was further reinforced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party then recommended doubling defense spending, to 2% of GDP.

Harder politicians have even pushed Japan to develop a pre-emptive conventional missile capability, even suggesting that it could allow the United States to deploy nuclear weapons on its territory. as a deterrent. A decade ago, such ideas were considered unthinkable in Japan.

Taiwan, located about 109 kilometers from the Japanese military base on Yonaguni Island, in Okinawa Prefecture, is one of the central issues in Tokyo’s security concerns. Taiwan is also a major trading partner and major supplier of computer chips and lies across a narrow strait through which most of Japan’s energy imports pass.

In Beijing on August 3, Chinese state television showed footage of Chinese fighter jets flying near Taiwan.  Photo: Reuters.

Screens in Beijing show images of Chinese fighter jets approaching Taiwan on August 3. Image: Reuters.

Policymakers fear any military confrontation around Taiwan would implicate Tokyo, as Japan is hosting a US military base on Okinawa and it also has a territorial dispute. rights over the Diaoyu/Senkaku group of islands in the East China Sea with China.

In its most recent white paper, the Japanese Ministry of Defense warned that Japan should be wary of the possibility of a US-China conflict breaking out.

To prepare for this scenario, Japan’s military leaders have increased coordination with US forces and deployed more troops and missile batteries to islands in the south of the country, which could become money. line if a collision breaks out.

Speaking to a policy group in Taiwan last December, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe warned that “a Taiwan crisis would also be a crisis for Japan, or in other words a crisis for Japan.” with the US-Japan alliance”.

In the commentary on the newspaper Los Angeles Times In April, he called on the US to clarify its “strategic ambiguity” policy towards Taiwan, arguing that Washington is “increasing instability in the Indo-Pacific region by making China assess lower American resolve”.

Before yesterday’s rocket launch, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that Beijing does not recognize Japan’s EEZ, where the missile landed.

China also canceled a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi after the G7 issued a statement expressing concern about Beijing’s “threatening actions” around Taiwan.

Missile incidents are somewhat familiar to Japan, which has seen at least 10 North Korean ballistic missiles fall into its EEZ since 2016. In the short term, according to Tatsumi, the expert According to analysis from the Stimson Center, Tokyo’s response to Beijing is likely to be in the same way as for Pyongyang: protest through diplomatic channels and increase vigilance.

The flight path of a Chinese missile during a drill on August 4.  Graphics: NY Times.

The flight path over the island of Taiwan of China’s missiles during drills on August 4. Click on the photo to see details.

“Japan certainly doesn’t want to be blamed by China for overreacting,” she said, “so they won’t respond with action on the ground, but the level of precaution will increase.”

In the longer term, however, China will likely face a more assertive Japan militarily, Tatsumi noted.

Chinese missiles “will not undermine discussions in Japan about increasing defense spending,” she said. “Any move by Beijing to increase tensions will speed up the process and also make military cooperation between Washington and Tokyo closer.”

Vu Hoang (Theo New York Times)

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