Taiwan awoke this morning to find Chinese missile tests under way 30 miles off its coast. The Defence Ministry confirmed that the People's Liberation Army had fired two surface-to-surface missiles into two target zones at dawn.
"Of the missiles, one fell within the target area west of Kaohsiung port and the other within the target area east of Keelung [port]," the statement added. These are Taiwan's main ports, and analysts say Peking's choice of targets to the north and south of the island will mean a partial blockade during the one-week military tests.
Peking yesterday dropped its previous protestations that the missile tests were "normal" training exercises, and admitted that they were aimed at influencing Taiwan's voters in the island's first democratic presidential elections, due on 23 March.
"The exercises will be useful not only to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also to stamp out efforts to create two Chinas or one China, one Taiwan," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman. The Chinese government maintains that Taiwan's president, Lee Teng-hui, is working moving the island towards independence. Mr Lee is certain to win this month's elections.
China's decision to conduct missile tests so close to Taiwan has prompted international uproar. In Washington, the White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, said the lauches were "provacative and recklesss".
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said that the missiles are believed to be Chinese M-9s, which are modelled on Russian Scuds. They were unarmed.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are concerned the missile firings were so close to Taiwan and we believe this will further heighten tensions in the region. We don't believe there is an imminent threat to Taiwan but ... there is a real possibility of miscalculation, leading to confrontation."