Five ballistic missiles fired by China are believed to have landed in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the first time, Tokyo’s defence minister said.
China held its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan on Thursday following US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governed island, despite stern warnings from Beijing that the visit should not proceed.
Japan’s EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles (approximately 370km) from the country’s coastline, beyond the limits of its territorial waters and parts of Japan’s southernmost island region Okinawa are close to Taiwan.
“Five of the nine ballistic missiles launched by China are believed to have landed within Japan’s EEZ,” Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters on Thursday.
Japan has “lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels”, Kishi said, calling the matter “a serious problem that affects our national security and the safety of our citizens”.
The figure of nine Chinese missiles fired was an assessment by the Japanese side, Kishi said, adding that the five missiles that landed in the EEZ appeared to have splashed down southwest of Okinawa’s Hateruma Island. Kishi said it was the first time that Chinese ballistic missiles had landed in Japan’s EEZ.
Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also called for an “immediate stop” to Beijing’s military drills around Taiwan.
“China’s actions this time have a serious impact on the peace and stability of the region and the international community,” Hayashi told reporters in Phnom Penh, where he is attending a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I once again demand the immediate stop of these military exercises.”
‘Missile firepower assault’
Tokyo had earlier expressed concern to China about the drills, saying on Wednesday that they were planned to take place in maritime areas which overlap with its EEZ.
All nine missiles were believed to have fallen within areas designated by China for the military exercises, Kishi said. The minister declined to comment on China’s intentions regarding the drills, but nonetheless called them “extremely menacing”.
The Chinese drills – the largest-ever in the Taiwan Strait – began a day after Pelosi made a solidarity trip to the self-ruled island which China claims as its own territory,
China said the drill involved a “conventional missile firepower assault” in waters to the east of Taiwan and more than 100 planes, including fighter jets and bombers, and more than 10 warships had participated.
Taiwan also confirmed that 11 Chinese Dongfeng ballistic missiles had been fired in nearby waters – the first time such weapons were launched in the Strait since 1996.