Chinese ballistic missiles have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the first time, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Thursday.
“Five of the nine ballistic missiles launched by China are suspected to have landed in Japan’s EEZ,” Kishi told reporters, adding that China had begun major military maneuvers in the waters around Taiwan after a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Japanese Defense Ministry also announced that four of these five ballistic missiles “would have flown over the island of Taiwan”.
“Japan has lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels,” Kishi said, adding that the incident “is a serious issue affecting our national security and our citizens.”
Some of the islands in Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture are a few dozen kilometers from Taiwan, and this is the first time Chinese ballistic missiles have entered Japan’s EEZ, which stretches 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers), the minister said. ) from its coast.
A total of nine missiles were estimated by Japan, five of which appeared to have crashed southwest of the Japanese island of Hateruma, he said.
The minister declined to comment on Chinese intentions regarding the military exercises, saying they were “very threatening”.
Despite strong warnings from Beijing, which considers Taiwan one of its provinces, China on Thursday began an unprecedented scale of military exercises around Taiwan in response to a visit by Ms Pelosi, who stayed on the island on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
Ms. Pelosi’s move is seen by China as a provocation, backing Taiwan independence supporters and reneging on the United States’ promise not to have official ties with the island.
In response, the Chinese military has launched a series of military exercises in the six seas surrounding Taiwan, along busy trade routes and sometimes as far as 20 kilometers from Taiwan’s shores.
Chinese military spokesman Shi Yi said the maneuvers, which began at noon Thursday (0400 GMT), included a “routine missile attack” in waters off Taiwan’s east coast.
Japan had already expressed its “concern” on Wednesday when China announced which sea areas would be affected by its maneuvers.