The missiles were launched as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) retaliatory military exercises against Taiwan, which have cut off several international air and sea paths to the island in a sort of blockade.
“To have five Chinese missiles fall within Japan’s EEZ like this is a first,” Japanese defense minister Nobuo Kishi said.
“We have protested strongly through diplomatic channels.”
Shortly before the launches, CCP authorities canceled a previously planned meeting between China and Japan’s foreign ministers, citing displeasure with Japan’s signing of a joint statement by the G-7 that called on China to resolve its tensions with Taiwan peacefully.
“We call on the PRC not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region, and to resolve cross-Strait differences by peaceful means,” the document said.
Taiwan Warns CCP Could ‘Invade’ Local Waters
The military exercises are the largest ever conducted by the CCP across the Taiwan Strait. They include joint naval, air, and missile forces, operating in six areas surrounding Taiwan.
Notably, some of the exercise areas, which the CCP has declared “prohibited” to international travel, occur within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coastline. A nation’s sovereign waters end 12 miles from the coastline, according to international law.
“If they send in their fighters or their warships to enter our territorial sea, that means China invaded our territory and we will have our standard operation procedure to respond to that,” Wang said.
“We don’t want to provoke any conflict here, but whoever dares to invade our country, our home, we have our obligation to defend our home.”
CCP authorities claim that Taiwan is a rogue province of China that must be united with the mainland at any cost. As such, China’s state-owned propaganda organs have issued articles claiming that Taiwan’s territorial waters are actually China’s territorial waters.
Despite China’s claims, Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, has never been controlled by the CCP, and boasts a democratic government and thriving market economy.
The White House said that China was positioning itself to take further aggressive actions against Taiwan following the announcement of the exercises, which have effectively blockaded many important international trade routes to the island.
“China has positioned itself to take further steps, and we expect that they will continue to react over a longer-term horizon,” said White House National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby during an Aug. 2 press briefing. “The United States will not seek and does not want a crisis. [But] we are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do.”
“What we’ve seen thus far is consistent with the playbook that we expected them to run.”
US, China at Loggerheads Over Status Quo
The CCP’s escalations in the region follow a highly publicized visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which the CCP leadership loudly protested. Both China and the United States have used the ensuing tensions to accuse one another of unilaterally attempting to change the status quo regarding Taiwan.
The United States maintains a “One China” policy, which acknowledges but doesn’t endorse the CCP’s principle that there is one inalienable China of which Taiwan is a part. It’s also bound by treaty to supply Taiwan with the arms necessary for Taiwan to defend its de facto independence. Further, the documents that form the basis of China and the United States’ agreement on the Taiwan issue demand that neither side seek to unilaterally change the current status quo through force or coercion.
To that end, the CCP has said it would “start a war no matter the cost” in order to prevent Taiwan’s independence from being recognized on the international stage.
Likewise, however, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the language of the United States’ agreements with China indicated that the nation would be willing to go to war to defend Taiwan from a CCP invasion.
“Going back 50 years, our views on this issue [have] been clear in that regard, that this would be a matter of ‘grave concern,’ which is often diplomatic language that we would be willing to go to war over this,” Esper said during a speech last month.
“It’s China that is undermining the “One China” policy as all sides have understood it now for 50 years, and it’s China changing the status quo through force. Those are just the facts of the matter.”
Despite the CCP’s claims that Pelosi’s visit constituted a “secessionist” push away from the status quo, the White House was quick to note that congressional delegations visit Taiwan with some frequency, including multiple times this year which received relatively little or no attention from the CCP.
Taiwan’s political and military leadership have also defended the visit, and have vowed to defend Taiwan’s territory and democratic way of life from CCP aggression.
“We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one,” Taiwan’s defense ministry stated in a video released on social media. “We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region’s stability.”