Five ballistic missiles fired by the Chinese military fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone on Thursday, the Japanese government said, with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi demanding that China “immediately stop” the live-fire military drill near Taiwan.
The missiles fell in the EEZ part of a Chinese-designated training area southwest of Hateruma Island in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, marking the first time that Chinese ballistic missiles have dropped within the waters, the government said.
China is holding drills around Taiwan to protest U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week, including a four-day exercise that began Thursday in six areas encircling the self-governed island.
“This is a grave issue that concerns our country’s national security and the safety of the people,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a hastily called news conference, calling China’s move “extremely coercive.”
The Japanese government also lodged a diplomatic protest with the Chinese government.
Hateruma is close to Taiwan and other islands such as Yonaguni and the Senkakus in the East China Sea.
The westernmost Japanese island of Yonaguni is a critical defense line for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, while the Senkaku Islands, administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, are at the heart of bilateral friction.
According to the Defense Ministry, of the nine ballistic missiles launched by China on Thursday afternoon, five fell within the Japanese EEZ. The closest one came to Japanese territory was about 80 kilometers north-northwest of Yonaguni.
The nine missiles flew somewhere between 350 km to 700 km after being launched from inland China and the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, including four that likely crossed over Taiwan, the ministry said.
Japan had expressed its grave concern about China’s military drills in locations near Taiwan, saying that the area overlaps with the EEZ.
Hayashi’s demand to Beijing over the live-fire military drill near Taiwan came as he spoke to reporters on the sidelines of foreign ministers meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a chat on the fringes agreed to strongly condemn China for its ballistic missile launches, the Japanese minister also said.
The drills came in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week, which has angered China and led to a flare-up in cross-strait tensions.
The United States has said Pelosi’s trip to the self-governed democratic Taiwan does not signal a change in U.S. policy on the island.