China has fired a barrage of medium-range missiles across considerable distances into the South China Sea, Beijing’s latest move to demonstrate its strategic dominance and sovereignty over the disputed waters.
The missile launches on Wednesday punctuated a series of military exercises that China has conducted this month at a time of rising tensions with the United States over its territorial claims in the South China Sea and its attempts to pressure Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that Beijing claims as its own.
Senior Col. Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, did not mention the missiles on Thursday but confirmed that China had carried out long-planned drills over an area that stretched from Qingdao in northeastern China to disputed islands in the South China Sea known as the Spratlys.
“The above exercises are not directed at any country,” Colonel Wu said at a regularly scheduled briefing in Beijing.
China had signaled its plans to test the missiles by declaring a travel exclusion zone in a part of the South China Sea this week. American forces in the region detected the launch of four missiles from the mainland to that area, an American defense official said.
The Pentagon is now assessing the types of missiles involved. Among the medium-range missiles in China’s growing arsenal are the DF-26 and the DF-21, which can attack moving targets at sea.