Beijing: The Taiwanese navy has mistakenly launched a supersonic “aircraft carrier killer” missile in the direction of mainland China as the Communist Party marked its 95th anniversary in Beijing, in a costly blunder which killed a Taiwanese fisherman and injured three others.
The navy initially said there were no injuries from the incident, while stressing the Hsiung Feng III missile, fired from one of its 500-tonne Chinchiang-class corvettes conducting a drill near its Kaohsiung base, did not cross the median line dividing the 180 kilometre strait between Taiwan and the mainland.
But by Friday afternoon, the Taiwanese navy confirmed the missile had “penetrated” a fishing boat operating nearby, killing the captain and injuring three crew members, with a preliminary investigation showing that its operators likely failed to comply with normal operating procedures.
“[The missile] was launched by operational error. We are investigating the case,” Vice-Admiral Mei Chia-hsu told reporters.
Because the Taiwanese navy has no direct communication channel with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, he said the information was reported to Taiwan’s National Security Council and other government agencies to coordinate follow-up responses.
Taiwan’s mainland affairs council declined to say whether the incident had been reported to Beijing. The incident comes at an awkward time with cross-strait relations deteriorating sharply after new Democratic Progressive Party president Tsai Ing-wen angered Beijing with her government’s refusal to recognise the “one-China” concept. Official communications have been effectively frozen by Beijing over the disagreement over the so-called 1992 consensus reached between the Communist Party and Taiwan’s then-ruling Nationalist Party.
In Beijing, President Xi Jinping used a set-piece speech during celebrations of the Communist Party’s 95th anniversary to take a veiled swipe at the United States and its freedom of navigation military exercises in the South China Sea.
“China will continue the military approach of active national defence. We will not seek frequent threats of using military force or show off military strength at other’s doorsteps,” he said.
“Such muscle flexing does not reflect real strength and will not be able to deter anyone.”
In his speech, Mr Xi further underlined his nationalistic and traditionalist streak by urging ideological discipline among the country’s 88 million Communist Party cadres in embracing the party’s Marxist roots, in comments interpreted by analysts as further evidence his grasp on power has distanced China from liberalisation and political reform.
“Marxism must be the basic fundamental, guiding principle, or the party would lose its soul and direction,” Mr Xi said.