Taiwan will 'get used to' air force drills, says China

BEIJING/TAIPEI • Taiwan will gradually get used to Chinese air force drills that encircle the island, China said, while Taiwan's premier reiterated the self-ruled island's desire for peaceful relations with its giant neighbour.

Chinese state media has given broad coverage to "island encirclement" exercises near Taiwan this month, including showing pictures of Chinese bomber aircraft with what they said was Taiwan's highest peak, Yushan, visible in the background.

Asked about the continuing drills and the footage released by the air force, China's policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office said yesterday it and the defence ministry had repeatedly described the exercises as routine.

"Everyone will slowly get used it," spokesman An Fengshan told a news briefing, without elaborating.

China's air force has carried out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan in the past year or so, Taiwan's defence ministry said in a white paper this week. China's military threat was growing by the day, it warned.

China considers democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a wayward province under Chinese control.

It has taken an increasingly hostile stance towards Taiwan since Ms Tsai Ing-wen, from the island's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won presidential elections last year and has stepped up its rhetoric and military exercises.

Taiwan Premier Lai Ching-te told a news conference in Taipei that the United States, Japan and South Korea were all paying close attention to the activities of China's air force.

Mr Lai said his government would take its lead from the President. "Under the President's leadership, the Executive Yuan pushes forward government affairs, stabilising cross-strait relations towards peaceful development," Mr Lai said, using the formal name for Taiwan's Cabinet.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2017, with the headline 'Taiwan will 'get used to' air force drills, says China'. Print Edition | Subscribe