A Taiwanese warship on Friday “mistakenly” fired a supersonic “anti-ship missile” towards China as it celebrated 95th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party amid assertions by President Xi Jinping ruling 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, Mei 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 kilometres, flew about 75 kilometres before plunging into waters off Penghu, a Taiwanese -administered island in the Taiwan Strait.
A 500-ton patrol boat Chinchiang was undergoing an inspection inside a military base when the Hsiung Feng III missile was fired and landed about 40 nautical miles (75 kilometers) away in waters off the islands of Penghu near Taiwan, the official Central News Agency said.
The Defense Ministry said the missile penetrated a nearby Taiwanese fishing boat, killing its captain and injuring three crew members.
A preliminary investigation showed that missile operators likely failed to follow proper procedures, CNA said.
A full investigation was under way, while the navy sent a helicopter and boats to search for the missile, the report said.
Meanwhile in Beijing, Taiwan figured prominently in a speech by President Xi to a rally to mark the 95th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), where he said China is firmly opposed to Taiwan’s independence.
Xi, 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.
“We firmly oppose the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities,” Xi said at the ceremony.
“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 which showed significant improvement in recent years took a hit after election of Tsai, who defeated Ma Ying-Jeou who promoted normalisation of ties between the two sides in recent election.
China has scaled down the normalisation process since then.
The Taiwanese missile did not pass the mid-course line of the Taiwan Strait, Mei said, which meant it was not aimed at Fujian province, which lies on the other side of the strait.
Mei 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,” Mei told media after the navy headquarters clarified that the launch was accidental.