Chinese jets carry out multiple drills around Taiwan

Students protest against popular Chinese talent show "Sing! China" at National Taiwan University in Taipei on Sept 24, 2017. Relations between China and Taiwan worsen as China conducted drills around Taiwan for the sixth time this month. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Chinese jets conducted drills near Taiwan's airspace on Wednesday (Dec 20) for the sixth time this month, as relations between the two rivals worsen.

China poses the biggest military risk to self-governed Taiwan, as Beijing sees it as part of its territory to be reunified at some point - by force, if necessary.

The two sides split after a civil war in 1949. Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy, it has never declared independence.

The latest drills come just days after China's warplanes flew to the Sea of Japan, prompting South Korea and Japan to scramble jets.

Taiwan's defence ministry announced Wednesday that Beijing had sent several planes including fighter jets through the Bashi Channel south of the island to the Pacific, and back.

"China's long-distance (drills) have become more frequent," it said, but urged Taiwanese people not to worry.

It added that it would dispatch its own aircraft and ships to monitor drills "according to protocol".

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have rapidly deteriorated since the inauguration last year of President Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to acknowledge both sides are part of "one China".

Beijing has cut all official communication with Taipei and stepped up pressure on Tsai's government, including staging a string of naval and air drills near Taiwan since last year.

Local media reports estimate Chinese warplanes have conducted drills around Taiwan at least 20 times this year, compared with a total of eight times last year.

In August, a Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) during a drill, prompting Taiwan to urge restraint.

The ADIZ stretches beyond Taiwan's airspace and is used to give early warning of possible incursions.

Five Chinese warplanes entered South Korea's ADIZ during Monday's drill, according to Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

China's air force said it was the first time its aircraft had flown through the Tsushima Strait that lies between South Korea and Japan.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.