103 China jets seen around Taiwan
The Manila Times
Asia And Oceania
TAIPEI: Taiwan told China on Monday to stop its “destructive unilateral actions” after more than 100 Chinese warplanes and nine navy ships were detected in areas around the selfruling democratic island. Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory to be seized one day, if necessary, and has ramped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taipei in recent years. In the 24 hours between the morning of September 17 and 18, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had detected a total of 103 Chinese planes, and described that number as a “recent high.” In a statement, the ministry said the sorties “posed severe challenges to the security across the Taiwan Strait and in the region.” Beijing’s “continued military harassment can easily lead to a sharp escalation in tension and worsen regional security,” it added as it called on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions.” Of the warplanes detected, 40 crossed the so-called median line of the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from China, and entered its southwestern and southeastern air defense identification zone, the statement said. China’s Foreign Ministry did not comment on the sorties, though its spokesman Mao Ning reaffirmed Beijing’s position that Taiwan belongs to China. “What I would like to tell you is that Taiwan is part of China’s territory, and the so-called median line does not exist,” she said. Taipei’s announcement on Monday came after an uptick in the number of incursions by Chinese warplanes and ships last week. Beijing said last week its troops were on “high alert” after two ships belonging to the United States and Canada sailed through the strait. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 68 Chinese aircraft and 10 naval vessels were spotted around the island between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning. Some of those planes and warships were heading to an unspecified area of the Western Pacific to “conduct joint sea and air training” with China’s Shandong aircraft carrier, it added. The Shandong, one of two operational aircraft carriers in the Chinese fleet, was detected last week about 60 nautical miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Taiwan heading into the Western Pacific, Taipei said. Japan’s Defense Ministry also said last week its navy had detected six ships — including frigates, destroyers, one fast combat support ship and the Shandong — sailing through waters some 650 km (400 mi) south of Miyakojima island, east of Taiwan. It confirmed that jets and helicopters had been detected taking off and landing from the Shandong, though China is yet to comment officially on any drill being conducted in the Western Pacific. Analysts said China could be flexing its muscles to counter US influence in the Asia-Pacific, as it leads multiple rounds of military drills with allies across the region. “China aims to counter the military containment of democratic allies led by the United States,” Su Tzu-yun, an analyst at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). China staged its largest-ever war games around Taiwan in August 2022, after then-US speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei despite warnings, infuriating Beijing. In April this year, Beijing conducted a three-day “Joint Sword” military exercise to simulate the encirclement of the island, after Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen met Pelosi’s successor Kevin McCarthy in his native California after she visited her remaining diplomatic allies in Latin Americas. In a comment on the Weibo social media platform, China’s state-run tabloid Global Times said Taiwan was a “sacred and inalienable part of China.” “The People’s Liberation Army’s relevant combat training activities are necessary actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it added, using the formal name of China’s military.