Beijing has launched two medium-range missiles into the South China Sea in a scathing warning to the United States, as tensions between the superpowers soar, triggering World War 3 fears in the region. The move came on Wednesday morning, one day after China said a US U-2 spy plane entered a no-fly zone without permission. A source close to the Chinese military is understood to have told local media the missile launch was intended to send a warning to the United States.
The missiles were launched towards the Paracel Islands and the south-east of the Hainan province to the south of the Chinese mainland.
A source told the South China Morning Post: “This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea.
“China doesn’t want the neighbouring countries to misunderstand Beijing’s goals.”
It is also understood the missiles were aimed at showcasing China’s ability to deny any force entering the South China Sea. A DF-26 missile can be used for nuclear or conventional strikes against naval or ground targets. The second missile was a DF-21, which many have stated is the world’s first anti-ship missile.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator said: “The US continues to test China’s bottom line in Taiwan and South China Sea issues, and this pushed China to showcase its military strength to let Washington know that even US aircraft carriers cannot flex their full muscle near China’s coast.”
Both China and the US have increased their presence in the region in recent months.
The Paracel Islands are one of several island chains claimed by Beijing under its One China policy.
The island chain is also claimed by Vietnam, although China insisted the islands should be associated with the mainland due to its historical rights. Taiwan has also been claimed under the policy, with Xi Jinping insisting the autonomous island will soon join China.
Tensions were further heightened following US Health Secretary, Alex Azar’s visit to the island earlier this month.
Although Mr Azar claimed the landmark trip was in order to coordinate the two states’ coronavirus response, the visit was met with a dire warning from China.
Ahead of the visit, China’s foreign ministry insisted the move would threaten the peace and stability in the region.
A spokesperson said: “I would like to stress again that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations.
“What the US has done seriously violated its commitment on the Taiwan issue.”
Due to China’s claims and militarisation of several islands in the region, the US has stepped freedom of navigation manoeuvres.
Both the USS Nimitz and Ronald Reagan have both been sent to the region in order to protect the sovereignty of states such as Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has warned of China creating a naval empire in the region. He has also claimed China’s continue presence and actions in the South China Sea are unlawful.