China-Taiwan Conflict: Japan Scrambles Fighter Jets After Chinese Suicide Drones Approach Sakishima Islands

Fighter jets of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force were scrambled after two Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles flew over Sakishima Islands in southern Okinawa Prefecture on Friday, media reported.

The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri reported that a surveillance drone and a kamikaze drone left the East China Sea and entered the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Japan’s Sakishima Islands at different times but followed almost the same route.

The drones have not violated Japan’s airspace, but the Japanese air force scrambled several fighter jets out of precaution, according to the report.

The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army started a large-scale military exercise in six water zones and airspace near Taiwan on Thursday in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island on August 2-3.

File Image: Japanese F-Fighter

On Tuesday, Pelosi visited Taipei while on an Asia tour despite warnings from China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory and opposes any direct official foreign contacts with the island. She is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

The visit became a new point of tension in US-China relations in the Taiwan Strait. Washington does not officially recognize Taiwan’s independence.

Earlier, the US denounced China’s missile launches in Japan’s exclusive economic zone that were carried out as part of military exercises in response to Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said on Thursday.

“I’m sure all of you that covered overnight, the People’s Republic of China launched an estimated 11 ballistic missiles towards Taiwan, which impacted the northeast, the east and southeast of the island.

We condemn these actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region,” Kirby told a briefing. “China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.”

Japan also condemned Chinese military drills near Taiwan as well as missile launches as undermining the security in the region and the world, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday after the meeting with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“This is a big problem, which affects the people’s security, and we firmly condemn China as well as voiced the protest. The Chinese actions are affecting the peace and stability of the region and the world. We demanded the immediate suspension of the Chinese drills,” Kishida said, as quoted by the Kyodo news agency.

Chinese Drills

The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Friday that its military exercises off the coast of Taiwan are continuing as planned.

“On August 5, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command continued joint combat exercises in the sea and air space north, southwest and east of the island of Taiwan in accordance with the plan,” the command said in a statement on WeChat.

The visit triggered a new round of tension in the Taiwan Strait. In addition to the launch of military exercises this week, Beijing has imposed sanctions against two Taiwanese foundations for separatist activities, suspended the export of natural sand to the island and the import of citrus fruits, as well as some types of fish products from Taiwan.

The US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan moved hundreds of miles away from Taiwan after the announcement of China’s exercises off the island coast, Meng Xiangqing, professor at the National Defense University of People’s Liberation Army, said on China Central Television on Friday.

“The USS Ronald Reagan, accompanying Pelosi, retreated about several hundred kilometers during the night,” Meng Xiangqing said, as quoted by CCTV broadcaster.

The US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by USS Ronald Reagan headed toward Taiwan ahead of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi`s visit to the island, the Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post reported at the end of July.

In reaction to Pelosi`s visit to Taipei, the Chinese army started large-scale exercises with live firing around Taiwan on Thursday and will carry on until 12 p.m. local time.

The Chinese foreign ministry said that Washington and Taipei are yet to face all the negative consequences of the visit, which Beijing has opposed for several months.