Thursday, April 8, 2021

Chinese warplanes, drones, fly closer to Taiwan in increasing shows of force

China says its activities around Taiwan are aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty.

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China sent more fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone on Wednesday in an increased show of force around the island Beijing claims as its own.

In response, Taiwan’s foreign minister said it would fight to the end if China attacks.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said 15 Chinese aircraft including 12 fighters entered its air defence identification zone, with an anti-submarine aircraft flying to the south through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Taiwan’s air force sent up aircraft to intercept and warn the Chinese away, the ministry added.

In recent months, Taipei has complained of repeated military activities by Beijing around the island country. China’s air force has been making almost daily forays into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

China has said its activities around Taiwan are aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty.

The US has expressed concern about China’s movements and said its commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid”.

Also on Wednesday, Taiwan reported spotting Chinese drones circling the Taipei-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea and threatened to shoot them down if they stray too close, a government minister said in a move that could dramatically increase tensions with Beijing.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard only lightly defends the islands though there are periodic deployments of marines. There is no permanent civilian population, only occasional visiting scientists.

The Pratas, the closest Taiwan-controlled territory to Hong Kong, have also taken on extra significance since anti-government protests began in the Chinese-run city.

In October, Hong Kong air traffic controllers warned off a Taiwanese civilian flight flying to the Pratas on a routine weekly supply run, forcing it to turn back.

Taiwan has intercepted at least one boat close to the Pratas carrying people fleeing from Hong Kong trying to make their way to Taiwan.

While China recognises no Taiwanese claims of sovereignty, its aircraft and ships generally stay outside Taiwan’s restricted zone, which extends 6km from its coast.

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