Taiwan reports more Chinese military activity as election nears


TAIPEI: Taiwan again reported Chinese warplanes and warships around the island on Thursday (Nov 30), including aircraft crossing the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, as Beijing keeps up its military activities ahead of Taiwan’s January election.

Democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for the past four years of regular Chinese military patrols and drills near the island.

Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary polls on Jan 13 and campaigning has already kicked into high gear. Relations with China are a major point of contention.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said that starting Thursday morning it had detected J-10 and J-16 fighters as well as ship-borne helicopters operating off central Taiwan and to the island’s southwest.

Eleven of those aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line, or areas close by, working with Chinese warships to carry out “joint combat readiness patrols”, the ministry added.

The strait’s median line once served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, but Chinese planes now regularly fly over it.

Taiwan sent its own forces to monitor, the ministry said.

This month, Taiwan has reported at least three other similar large-scale sorties by China’s airforce, which Beijing has not commented on.

China says its activities near Taiwan are aimed at preventing “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the United States, and protecting China’s territorial integrity.

Taiwan’s government, which has repeatedly offered talks with China, rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s Lai Ching-te, whom Beijing has denounced as a separatist, is the frontrunner to be Taiwan’s next president, according to opinion polls.

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, traditionally supports close ties with Beijing, and has pledged to reopen dialogue with China if it wins the election.


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