Taiwan on high alert after latest Chinese air force drills

Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 warplanes fly over the Air Force Academy during Taiwan's Air Force Day celebrations in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan on Aug 12, 2017.
Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 warplanes fly over the Air Force Academy during Taiwan's Air Force Day celebrations in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan on Aug 12, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's military is on a high alert after three days of drills by the Chinese air force near to self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday (Aug 15).

Chinese aircraft,including bombers and advanced fighter jets, made exercise runs through the Bashi Channel - which separates Taiwan from the Philippines -and up to the north of Taiwan near Japan's Miyako island, the Taiwan's government said.

Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-ji said Chinese aircraft, at times, entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone during their drills.

Said Mr Chen: "Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or air space or even engaging in hostility.

"We're experienced and have been doing this for a long time, and we ask our citizens to rest assured. We will, of course, take actions to avoid escalating any conflict throughout this process."

China has yet to comment on the exercises, although it has described them as routine in the past.

The drills are the latest in a series of such exercises conducted by China near Taiwan and Japan in the last few weeks.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South China and East China seas. It is also worried that Taiwan is run by a government China fears is intent on independence.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has warned that any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

Taiwan is well-armed with mostly US weaponry, but it has been pressing Washington to sell it more high-tech equipment to better deter China.