Something terrible happened in the South China Sea region on Friday. A 500-tonne Taiwanese Navy Corvette “accidentally” launched an anti-ship supersonic missile in the direction of China, which ended up killing a Taiwanese captain of a fishing trawler.
According to reports, the missile, Hsiung-feng III (Brave Wind) flew for approximately 2 minutes for 75 kilometers before striking the 60-tonne trawler off Kaohsiuing.
Its captain, Huang Wen-chung, was killed and three other crew members, including a Vietnamese and a Pilipino were injured.
The Hsiung Feng III missile can fly at Mach 2 speeds for upto 300 kilometres. GlobalSecurity
The missile did not explode because it did not hit any metal object but a lightly built trawler. Taiwanese Navy is looking for the missile in the depths of the waters.
Taiwanese Navy has apologized for the incident but claims that it was “an accident” which happened during a simulation drill.
But China is furious. The missile has a range of 300 kilometers, which means that it has the capability to hit China from anywhere in Taiwan.
The missile fell near the Taiwanese town of Kaohsiung, about 300 kilometres from Chinese mainland.
Beijing wants Taiwan to provide a “responsible explanation”. China’s top official in charge of Taiwan policy, Zhang Zhijun, said called the incident a “serious matter.”
Diplomatic relations between Taipei and Beijing hit a nadir since the election of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s President in 2016, who is seen as an anti-China figure because of her opposition to ‘One China’ policy.
That the new government in Taiwan arrived with a huge majority indicated the change in the winds of diplomacy that flowed between mainland China and Taiwan. In 1992, the governments of the two countries had agreed to a consensus that recognized Taiwan as a part of ‘One China’ but not the leadership in Beijing. The 1992 consensus was between China’s CCP – still the ruling party – and Taiwan’s KMT – which was sidelined in 2016. By 2016, Taiwan assumed a nationalist stand and elected the new President. Unlike the KMT, which has always been pro-China despite their ideological difference, Tsai’s party is pro-independent Taiwan. Additionally, Taiwan’s strategic and diplomatic closeness to US that Beijing is not fond of.
In March 2015, before Tsai came to power, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that Taiwan’s independence forces “are the biggest hindrance for the peaceful development of the cross-strait ties [and the] biggest threat of the cross-strait stability”.
In June 2015, the Chinese PLA was seen practicing a mock military drill designed to look like an invasion on Taiwan. Taipei had raised objections to the same.
The Taiwanese corvette was sitting in the Zuoying Military Harbor when the missile was launched. Trying not to escalate the matter any further, Taiwanese Vice Admiral Mei Chia-shu maintained that the “operation was not done in accordance with normal procedure.”
Taiwan’s Navy Chief of Staff Mei Chia-shu explaining the accidental launching of the missile. Taiwan Ministry of National Defense
But this incident – serious as it is indeed – is expected to trigger off a series of strategic plans in Beijing with regard to Taipei.