Taiwan military says it has right to counter attack amid China threats

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan said on Monday its armed forces have the right to self-defense and counter attack amid “harassment and threats,” in an apparent warning to China, which last week sent numerous jets across the mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Tensions have sharply spiked in recent months between Taipei and Beijing, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed.

Chinese aircraft crossed the mid-line to enter the island’s air defense identification zone on Friday and Saturday, prompting Taiwan to scramble jets to intercept them, and President Tsai Ing-wen to call China a threat to the region.

In a statement, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had “clearly defined” procedures for the island’s first response amid “high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy’s warships and aircraft this year”.

It said Taiwan had the right to “self-defenses and to counter attack” and followed the guideline of “no escalation of conflict and no triggering incidents”.

Taiwan would not provoke, but it was also “not afraid of the enemy”, it added.

MID-LINE “DOES NOT EXIST”

Taiwanese and Chinese combat aircraft normally observe the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait and do not cross it, although there is no official agreement between Taipei and Beijing on doing so, and the rule is observed unofficially.

“Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing. “The so-called mid-line of the Strait does not exist.”

Since 2016 Taiwan has reported only five Chinese incursions across the line, including the two last week.

Late on Monday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft had flown into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone – but not over the mid-line – to the island’s southwest, and were warned away by Taiwanese fighters.

The drills came as Beijing expressed anger at the visit of a senior U.S. official to Taipei.

On Monday, the official China Daily newspaper said the United States was trying to use Taiwan to contain China but nobody should underestimate its determination to assert its sovereignty over the island.

“The U.S. administration should not be blinkered in its desperation to contain the peaceful rise of China and indulge in the U.S. addiction to its hegemony,” it said in an editorial.

China has been angered by stepped-up U.S. support for Taiwan, including two visits in as many months by top officials, one in August by Health Secretary Alex Azar and the other last week by Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic affairs.

The United States, which has no official diplomatic ties with the island but is its strongest international backer, is also planning major new arms sales to Taiwan.

China this month held rare large-scale drills near Taiwan, which Taipei called serious provocation. China said the exercise was a necessity to protect its sovereignty.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, and Gabriel Crossly in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel, Clarence Fernandez and Gareth Jones)

Chinese bomber approaches Taiwan in latest fly-by near island

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese air force jets, including at least one bomber, briefly entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday, before being warned off by its air force, the island’s military said, the eighth such encounter in two weeks.

The encounter came on the day President Tsai Ing-wen oversaw a test flight of a new locally-developed advanced trainer jet as she pushes to boost democratic Taiwan’s defenses, particularly as China ramps up its own military modernization.

Taiwan’s air force named the Chinese aircraft involved as the H-6 bomber and J-10 fighter jet but did not say how many planes in total flew into the identification zone to the island’s southwest.

The Chinese air force received verbal warnings to leave via radio, and patrolling Taiwanese fighters also “proactively drove off” the aircraft, Taiwan’s air force said in a short statement, without giving details.

The H-6 is a nuclear-capable bomber based on an old Soviet design that has participated in several such drills near Taiwan, including what China calls “island encirclement” exercises around the Chinese claimed-island.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has previously said its drills near the island are routine and designed to show Beijing’s determination to protect its sovereignty. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Middle East tensions loom over Dubai aerospace pageant

Al Fursan, the UAE Air Force performs during Dubai Airshow November 8, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

By Alexander Cornwell and Tim Hepher

DUBAI (Reuters) – Rising Middle East tensions and a corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia will cast a shadow over next week’s Dubai Airshow, as military and aerospace leaders try to gauge whether they might prolong a weapons-buying spree in the region.

Fraying business confidence since the summer, when a sudden rift emerged between Arab powers, means the recent rapid growth of major Gulf airlines will also be under scrutiny when the Middle East’s largest industry showcase opens on Sunday.

The biennial gathering has produced a frenzy of deals in the past, especially four years ago when Dubai’s Emirates and Qatar Airways opened the show with a display of unity as they unveiled a headline-grabbing order for passenger jets.

But highlighting the current rift between Qatar and Arab nations including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar Airways’ outspoken chief executive will not be at the show, which has also been overshadowed by political upheaval in Saudi Arabia.

Distrust between Arab Gulf states, on top of escalating tensions between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, is likely to keep defense spending high on the agenda at the Nov 12-16 event, to be attended by dozens of military delegates.

Saudi Arabia and allies are exploring increases in missile defenses following ballistic missile tests in Iran, which have been heavily criticized by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Iran views its ballistic missile program as an essential precautionary defense.

“The hot area for the Middle East has been air defense,” said Sash Tusa, aerospace analyst at UK-based Agency Partners.

“While the issue of Iran’s missile tests is new, demand from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia already reflects the fact that they have been at war, in some cases on two fronts, for over two years.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran are facing off in proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. Saudi Arabia, which recently committed to tens of billions of dollars of U.S. equipment, says it has intercepted a missile fired from Yemen over Saudi capital Riyadh.

 

SAUDI CRACKDOWN

Few defense deals get signed at the show itself, but it is seen as a major opportunity to test the mood of arms buyers and their mainly Western suppliers.

But analysts say the way of doing business is up for discussion after an unprecedented crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia that erupted days before the show’s opening.

“The big question on many multinational company minds now … {is} will they will change the way in which decision making works when it comes to purchases of their equipment and services,” said Sorana Parvulescu, partner at Control Risks in Dubai.

Those detained in the crackdown include billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose Kingdom Holding part owns Saudi Arabia’s second biggest airline flynas, and Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, head of the country’s elite internal security forces.

“There will be questions around how does this impact their (foreign firms) model of operations in the country and their market share and their market position,” Parvulescu said.

Airbus and Boeing will be pushing hard for new deals on the civil side of the show at Dubai’s future mega-airport, after a pause for breath at the last edition in 2015. Boeing goes into the event with a wide lead in this year’s order race.

Emirates, the region’s biggest carrier, is expected to finalize an additional order for Airbus A380s, which if secured could be crucial to extending the costly superjumbo program.

After years of expansion, some analysts are questioning the viability of the Gulf hub model, which has seen three airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways, emerge as some of the world’s most influential after taking advantage of their geographic location of connecting east and west.

Leasing executives have also raised doubts over whether the Big Three will take delivery of all of the more than 500 wide-body jets currently on order from Airbus and Boeing.

In September, Middle Eastern carriers saw their slowest rate of international demand growth in over eight years.

 

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)