Bangkok Post

25 warplanes in drill near Taiwan

Largest sortie near island since January


China’s air force sent 25 fighters and bombers over the Taiwan Strait, escalating military pressure on the government in Taipei as it boosts ties with the US.

Beijing deployed 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, four H-6K bombers, two Y-8 anti-sub warfare planes and one KJ-500 early warning aircraft into the southwest section of Taiwan’s air defence identifica­tion zone on Monday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said in a statement.

The sortie was the largest China has sent toward Taiwan this year. The ministry said Taiwan’s air force responded by sending patrol aircraft to the area and tracking the Chinese planes with missile defence systems.

Chinese military activity has steadily picked up around democratic­ally ruled Taiwan in recent months. The Chinese Defense Ministry said last week that the Liaoning aircraft carrier had carried out exercises near Taiwan recently and the navy is planning more drills. The People’s Liberation Army also said that it monitored the USS John S McCain destroyer as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

Washington and Beijing have been issuing warnings to each other regarding Taiwan since President Joe Biden took office in January, adding to tensions that increased steadily during the Trump administra­tion. On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China should avoid encroachin­g on Taiwan, adding Beijing was fomenting

tensions in the strait with “aggressive actions”.

The State Department said in January that Washington had a “rock solid” commitment to Taipei after China flew more than a dozen military aircraft, including the H-6K bombers, over the strait. The bombers are believed to be capable of carrying land-attack cruise missiles.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi used an annual press briefing last

month to warn the Biden administra­tion to be careful in its dealings with Taipei. Mr Wang said the US should stop “crossing lines and playing with fire”, adding there was “no room for compromise or concession­s” in Beijing’s claim to sovereignt­y over Taiwan.

The US on Friday restored rules governing officials’ contacts with Taiwan that were lifted near the end of the Trump administra­tion, a step intended to help return some semblance of order to ties between Washington and Taipei. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, but it has governed itself since 1949.

The State Department didn’t detail ways in which the guidelines will be loosened. But two people familiar with the move said that US officials would be allowed to host Taiwanese officials at US federal buildings and meet Taiwanese counterpar­ts at its government offices.

The latest guidance “underscore­s Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and an important security and economic partner that is also a force for good in the internatio­nal community”, spokesman Ned Price said.

Late last month Washington and Taipei agreed to boost cooperatio­n between their coast guards amid efforts by China to deploy its coast guard and civilian fishing fleets to assert territoria­l claims.

That move came after the US voiced concern over the presence of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels near a disputed reef in the South China Sea. China has said the ships were only sheltering from the wind.

The US is carrying out “strategic planning” with its Australian ally to consider potential joint responses to a war over Taiwan, Michael Goldman, the US’s top diplomat in Canberra has said.

“We’re committed as allies to working together — not only in making our militaries interopera­ble and functionin­g well together, but also in strategic planning,” Mr Goldman, the US Embassy’s chargé d’affaires, said in an a podcast released April 1.

Beijing cut off ties with the island when Tsai Ing-wen became president in 2016, and employs a range of methods to pressure and isolate the island. The Paraguayan government said in March that it was approached with offers of Chinese-made vaccines in exchange for breaking ties with Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoma­n Hua Chunying said that Beijing is “always honourable and above board” with its offers for vaccine help.

China’s Communist Party sees Taiwan as its territory.

 ?? REUTERS ?? Chinese, Taiwanese flags and military airplanes are seen in this illustrati­on.
REUTERS Chinese, Taiwanese flags and military airplanes are seen in this illustrati­on.

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