U.S. commander: Challenge missiles

SINGAPORE (AFP) — China’s recent decision to fire missiles over Taiwan is a “gorilla in the room” that has to be contested, a top US military commander said Tuesday.

“It’s very important that we contest this type of thing. I know that the gorilla in the room is launching missiles over Taiwan,” Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas told reporters in Singapore.

“If we just allow that to happen, and we don’t contest that, that’ll be the next norm,” he added.

“It’s irresponsible to launch missiles over Taiwan into international waters, where the shipping lanes, where free shipping operates.”

The Seventh Fleet is based in Japan and is a core part of Washington’s navy presence in the Pacific.

During this month’s drills Chinese state media reported that some of the ballistic missiles fired by the People’s Liberation Army followed a trajectory directly over Taiwan’s capital Taipei, a new escalation that Beijing stopped short of confirming.

Thomas compared the threats against Taiwan to the South China Sea where Beijing spent years constructing military bases and facilities on a series of contested atolls, while denying it was doing just that.

“If you don’t challenge it… all of a sudden it can become just like the islands in the South China Sea (that) have now become military outposts,” he said.

“They now are full functioning military outposts that have missiles on them, large runways, hangers, radars, listening posts.”

Tricks and exaggeration

Meanwhile, Taiwan denied that Chinese jets came close to Penghu.

“The Chinese Community Party used cognitive warfare and other tricks to exaggerate and show that (its jet) was close to Penghu. This is not true,” senior air force official Tung Pei-Lun told reporters on Tuesday.

The Penghu islands sit in between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

They host a major Taiwanese airbase and would be on the frontline of any invasion attempt by Beijing.

State media ran footage and pictures of Taiwan’s Penghu islands purportedly taken from Chinese jets flying a short distance from the archipelago.

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