Chinese jets hold latest drills around Taiwan

TAIPEI • Chinese jets conducted drills near Taiwan's airspace yesterday, the sixth time this month, as cross-strait ties 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, also known as East Sea, prompting South Korea and Japan to scramble jets.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry announced yesterday 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 not to worry, adding it would dispatch its own aircraft and ships to monitor drills "according to protocol".

Taipei-Beijing ties have rapidly worsened 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 raised pressure on its government, including staging 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 it to urge restraint. The ADIZ stretches beyond Taiwan's airspace and is used to warn of possible incursions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese jets hold latest drills around Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe