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Taiwan tests live missiles as Chinese warship nears the island

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A Taiwanese state-run weapons developer conducted a series of live-fire missile tests on Thursday and Friday as a Chinese warship sailed near the island’s east coast, local media reported.

The National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) test-fired Hsiung Sheng surface-to-surface cruise missiles into the eastern waters of Taiwan from the Jiupeng military base in Pingtung County, according to a report by the official Central News Agency (CNA).

Just hours before the test began, a Chinese guided-missile destroyer was spotted 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Green Island, Taitung County.

Green Island is only over 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Taiwan’s main island and, together with Orchid Island, is included in the “danger zone” of the projectiles which extends about 200 kilometers (124 miles) off the coast of Taitung.

CNA quoted anonymous military sources as saying that after China completed military drills around Taiwan, in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit earlier this month, three missile destroyers and one electronic reconnaissance ship remained in the waters east of Taiwan. However, only one of them was still there on Thursday.

The NCSIST announced last month that it would conduct two rounds of missile tests on Aug. 18-19 and Aug. 25-26. The missiles have an “unlimited” projectile altitude, meaning they are medium and long-range.

‘No threat to China’

The Hsiung Sheng cruise missile is an improved variant of Taiwan’s homegrown Hsiung Feng 2-E missile and has a reported range of up to 1,200 kilometers (746 miles), making it capable of striking targets in Chinese cities as far as Qingdao.

Meanwhile, according to the air traffic tracking website Flightradar24, a U.S. Air Force USN P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft was operating near southern Taiwan on Friday morning.

An E-8C Joint STARS also flew over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines on Wednesday. The E-8C Joint STARS is the U.S. Air Force’s leading ground tracking and battle management aircraft.

Chinese analysts told state media that both the Taiwanese missiles and the U.S. aircraft posed no “credible threats” to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, was quoted by the Global Times as saying that “Taiwan media outlets are ignorant to believe the U.S. aircraft can deter the PLA, as the PLA has already dealt with many US reconnaissance aircraft like it.”

The PLA should be ready to increase reconnaissance intensity on Taiwan as well as to conduct regular military drills, according to Song.

China has yet to respond to Taiwan’s allegation that the PLA falsely claimed its aircraft had flown over Penghu, one of Taiwan’s most important outlying islands.

The Eastern Theater Command of the PLA published a video on WeChat on Monday purportedly showing Penghu Islands as seen from a military aircraft at a relatively close proximity.

“This is pure propaganda, consistent with the PLA’s airbrushed photos, fake videos, and other falsehoods and disinformation that have been released in the past several days,” said Drew Thompson, a former U.S. defense official and senior visiting fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“The Taiwan military has an integrated air defense and surveillance network made up of many radars and sensors, including one of the most powerful radars in the world, giving them the ability to detect and track any target flying within thousands of miles of Taiwan,” Thompson told RFA.

“This PLA Air Force’s mission is pure fantasy,” he added.

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