Beijing: A Taiwanese warship on July 1 “mistakenly” fired a supersonic ‘anti-ship missile’ towards China as it celebrated the 95th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party (CPC) amid assertions by President Xi Jinping that ruled out independence for Taiwan.
The “accidental launch” of the domestically-developed Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile from a naval base in Kaohsiung, south of the island, took place as Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was overseas.
“The missile was launched by operational error. We are investigating the case,” vice-admiral Mei Chia-hsu of the Taiwanese navy was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
Asked if the incident risked a misunderstanding with Beijing, Chia-hsu said the navy had reported the incident to the island’s defence ministry, which would handle the case accordingly.
The missile, with a range of 300 km, flew about 75 km before plunging into waters off Penghu, a Taiwanese-administered island in the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile in Beijing, Taiwan figured prominently in a speech by President Jinping to the rally marking the 95th anniversary of the CPC. “We firmly oppose the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities,” Jinping said at the ceremony.
Jinping, who is also the general secretary of the CPC, stressed the political foundation of adhering to the 1992 consensus and opposing “Taiwan independence” to ensure the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
“More than 1.3 billion Chinese people and the whole Chinese nation will by no means tolerate secessionist activities by any person, at any time and in any form,” he said.
China claims Taiwan as part of the mainland despite the 1949 estrangement.
Relations between the two sides showed significant improvement in recent years, but took a hit after the election in which Ing-wen defeated Ma Ying-jeou, who promoted normalisation of ties between the two sides. China has scaled down the normalisation process since then.
The Taiwanese missile did not pass the mid-course line of the Taiwan Strait, Chia-hsu said, which meant it was not aimed at the Fujian province that lies on the other side of the strait.
Chia-hsu said the Chinchiang (PCG-610) patrol ship was undergoing a drill inspection when officers failed to follow standard operating procedures and launched the missile by mistake.
“It did not cause any injury,” Chia-hsu told the media after the navy headquarters clarified that the launch was accidental.