Taiwan school uses dividers during lunch to counter coronavirus

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A school in Taiwan’s capital Taipei is going to unusual lengths to protect its students from the coronavirus – putting up bright yellow dividers on their desks during lunch to reduce their risk of infection while eating.

While a growing number of countries have suspended classes until further notice to try and slow the spread of the virus, Taiwan’s schools are operating as normal, albeit with heightened bio-security measures.

Taiwan has won plaudits from experts for the way it has controlled the virus, and has only reported 50 cases, compared with more than 80,000 in its giant neighbor China. However the island is on high alert to ensure the virus is contained.

Students at the Dajia Elementary School are asked to disinfect their shoes and hands before entering the school’s premises, while a security guard takes their temperature.

What sets the school apart, though, is the bright yellow dividers erected on their desks at lunchtime when students take off the surgical masks they have to wear during class in order to eat.

“Schools have to make the most comprehensive preparations,” said school headmaster Li Chung-hui, who first came up with the idea to make dividers from affordable corrugated plastic board. One divider costs less than T$50 ($1.66).

The students don’t seem too fazed about having to eat behind the dividers.

“I think that we can prevent bacteria from coming close,” said Tu Yu-chieh, 6.

(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Writing by Ben Blanchard)

Taiwan says U.S. flies bombers near island after China’s drills

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Three U.S. Air Force planes, including two B-52 bombers, flew near Taiwan on Wednesday, the island’s defense ministry said, after Taiwan’s air force scrambled earlier in the week to intercept Chinese jets.

The United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer, even in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, and is also the island’s main source of arms.

Tensions spiked between Taiwan and China, which claims the island as its own, on Sunday and Monday, as Taiwan sent F-16s to shadow approaching Chinese bombers and fighters.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said one U.S. MC-130, a special mission aircraft based on the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, flew down the Taiwan Strait in a southerly direction on Wednesday.

The two U.S. B-52 bombers skirted Taiwan’s east coast, also in a southerly direction, the ministry added.

The U.S. Air Force has a major base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, which is near Taiwan.

Speaking in Singapore, a senior U.S. State Department official, Clarke Cooper, referred to the Chinese flights and told CNBC it was “completely inappropriate of China to take such an aggressive act.”

“That aggressive act is not just a reflection on China‚Äôs relationship with Taiwan, it certainly is reflective about how China may be looking at the entire region in total,” said Cooper, the assistant secretary for political-military affairs.

On Tuesday, a State Department spokeswoman said China should “immediately cease its coercive efforts” and resume dialogue with Taipei.

China has described its exercises on Sunday and Monday as actions to guard national sovereignty.

It has been flying what it calls “island encirclement” drills since 2016 when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen first took office. Beijing believes Tsai, who won re-election last month, wishes to push the island’s formal independence.

Tsai says Taiwan is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

Taiwan has urged China to focus its efforts on fighting the new coronavirus rather than menacing the island.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that China’s military activities had only caused anger on the island and harmed the peaceful development of relations across the strait.

“Our government will continue to adopt a pragmatic and restrained stance, prudently handle cross-strait relations, and deepen cooperation with countries with similar ideals, including the United States, in response to the rising Chinese military threat,” she added.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard in Taipei and David Brunnstrom and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Catherine Evans, Andrew Cawthorne and Paul Simao)

Taiwan again scrambles jets to intercept Chinese planes, tensions spike

By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled for a second day in a row on Monday to intercept Chinese jets that approached the island claimed by Beijing as its own, as tensions between the two took on a potentially dangerous military dimension.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said Chinese jets, accompanying H-6 bombers, briefly crossed an unofficial mid-line in the Taiwan Strait that separates the two, prompting its air force to rush to intercept and give verbal warnings to leave.

The Chinese aircraft then withdrew to the western side of the line, the ministry added, without identifying the jets.

The H-6s were on a training mission in the Pacific having passed through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, the ministry added and shared a picture of a Taiwan F-16 accompanying one of the H-6 bombers.

China has been flying what it calls “island encirclement” drills on-off since 2016 when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen first took office. Beijing believes Tsai, who won re-election last month, wishes to push the island’s formal independence.

Tsai says Taiwan is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

On Sunday too, Chinese jets, including J-11 fighters, flew into the Bashi Channel then out into the Pacific before heading back to base via the Miyako Strait, located between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of Taiwan.

According to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency, the F-16s scrambled on Sunday carried live missiles.

There was no immediate comment from China on Monday’s incident. This is only the second time since 2016 that Taiwan has said that Chinese jets had crossed the strait’s median line. Their military aircraft tend to keep to their own sides.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, though, urged Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “not to play with fire”.

The DPP have been “adopting a stance that increases cross-strait confrontation, intensifying new moves for Taiwan-U.S. collusion, using the opportunity to seek independence and openly carrying out dangerous provocations”, it added.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command described Sunday’s fly-by of military’s combat ready patrol as a “completely legitimate and necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and safeguarding national sovereignty”.

TAIWAN-BEIJING TENSIONS

The latest fly-bys came as Taiwan’s vice-president elect, William Lai, was returning from a visit to Washington, where he attended the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast, at which U.S. President Donald Trump spoke. China denounced Lai’s trip.

Washington is Taipei’s most important backer and arms supplier, despite the absence of official diplomatic ties.

China says Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in its relations with the United States.

Relations between the Taipei and Beijing have further soured recently over the coronavirus outbreak, with Taiwan accusing China of preventing the island from accessing full information from the World Health Organization or attending its meetings.

China should focus on controlling the spread of the virus, rather than threatening Taiwan, Tsai said on Monday.

Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said the island’s 23 million people would not bow down to threats.

“In recent years, Communist aircraft and warships have frequented the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait and attempted to use arms to force unification,” it said.

“Various provocative acts have seriously damaged the status quo of the Taiwan Strait and have increased regional tensions.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Don’t read too much into election results, Taiwan tells China before vote

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Beijing should not see Taiwan’s elections as representing a win or loss for China, Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Thursday, days ahead of a vote overshadowed by Chinese efforts to get the island to accept its rule.

Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday. Its elections are always closely watched by China, which claims the island as its territory.

Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name, and the government has warned of Beijing’s efforts to sway the vote in favor of the opposition.

“I just don’t think China should read Taiwan’s election as its own victory or defeat,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei.

“If China reads too much into our election … there might be a likely scenario that China will engage in military intimidation or diplomatic isolation or using economic measures as punishment against Taiwan.”

President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election, has repeatedly warned Taiwan’s people to be wary of Chinese attempts to sway the election through disinformation or military intimidation, an accusation China denies.

Wu drew attention to China’s sailing of its new aircraft carrier into the sensitive Taiwan Strait late last year, calling the voyage “clear” evidence of Beijing’s attempts to intimidate voters.

“This is our own election. This is not China’s election. It is Taiwanese people who go to the voting booth to make a judgment on which candidate or political party is better for them,” Wu said.

“If China wants to play with democracies in other countries so much, maybe they can try with their own elections at some point.”

The issue of China has taken center stage in the campaign, especially after its president, Xi Jinping, warned last year it could attack Taiwan, though said he’d prefer a peaceful “one country, two systems” formula to rule the island.

Taiwan-China ties have soured since Tsai took office in 2016, with China cutting off formal dialogue, flying bomber patrols around Taiwan, and whittling away at its diplomatic allies.

China suspects Tsai of pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she will maintain the status quo but will defend Taiwan’s democracy and way of life.

‘EVERY BALLOT HAS POWER’

In a front-page election advertisement in the mass circulation Liberty Times on Thursday, Tsai appealed directly for people to cast their vote against China.

“In the face of China, every ballot has power,” the advertisement read, next to a picture of Tsai wearing a camouflaged military helmet and flak jacket.

Tsai’s main opponent is Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, which ruled China until 1949, when it was forced to flee to Taiwan after loosing a civil war with the Communists.

Han says he would reset ties with Beijing to boost Taiwan’s economy, but not compromise on the island’s security or democratic way of life.

In a Facebook post later on Thursday, Tsai wrote that China would be happiest if the Kuomintang got back into power.

“The elections should make Taiwan’s people happy, not the Chinese government,” she added.

But Kuomintang Chairman Wu Den-yih said Tsai was the real threat, pointing to an anti-infiltration law she championed and passed late last year to tackle Chinese influence. The Kuomintang says the law seeks to effectively outlaw all contacts with China.

“Don’t let Tsai Ing-wen destroy the Republic of China’s democracy, liberty and rule of law; just take down Tsai Ing-wen,” the party cited Wu Den-yih as saying, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

Overshadowing the elections have been allegations in Australian media from a self-professed Chinese spy about China’s efforts to influence Taiwan’s politics and support Han, who, along with Beijing, has denounced the accusations as lies.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Taiwan says China meddling with elections after Solomon Islands cuts ties

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan accused China on Monday of trying to influence its presidential and legislative elections after the Solomon Islands cut off ties with Taipei.

The Solomon Islands was the sixth country to switch allegiance to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan in 2016. Its decision on Monday dealt her a new blow in her struggle to secure re-election in January amid criticism of her handling of Beijing and rising tension with China.

Self-ruled Taiwan now has formal relations with only 16 countries, many of them small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and says it has no right to formal ties with any nation.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Tsai said Taiwan would not bow to Chinese pressure, describing the Solomon Islands’ decision as new evidence that Beijing is trying to meddle in the January elections.

“Over the past few years, China has continually used financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space,” Tsai said, calling the Chinese move “a brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.”

“I want to emphasize that Taiwan will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China in order to satisfy unreasonable demands,” she said.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said Taipei would immediately close its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all its diplomats.

“The Chinese government attacked Taiwan purposely before our presidential and legislative elections, obviously aiming to meddle with the voting. The government strongly condemns this and urges people to hold on to its sovereignty and the value of freedom and democracy,” said Wu, whose resignation was rejected by Tsai.

“Taiwan has never bowed to pressure from one single setback, and it won’t be defeated by this blow,” Wu said, urging support from allies in the region to defend Taiwan’s freedom and democracy.

“AT ANY COST”

China has been trying to secure allies from Taiwan, and Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador had already cut off ties with Taipei.

Beijing has stepped up pressure to squeeze the island, which have included regular Chinese bomber patrols around Taiwan, since Tsai took office. China suspects Tsai of pushing for Taiwan’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing.

Tsai said the Chinese move could be an “attempt to divert attention” from months of protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, and that China was forcing Taiwan to accept a formula similar to Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” arrangement, which guarantees certain freedoms.

“I am confident that the 23 million people of Taiwan have this to say in response: not a chance.”

A senior official familiar with Taiwan’s security planning told Reuters Beijing had issued an “urgent order” to secure the Solomon Islands’ allegiance “at any cost” on Sunday night, and called it a move to distract domestic attention from the Hong Kong issue before the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China on Oct. 1.

The protests in Hong Kong pose the biggest challenge for Communist Party rulers in Beijing since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

The source said the rupture in ties had prompted expressions of concern from countries including the United States, Australia and New Zealand, who had been involved in efforts to help Taiwan secure ties with the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands’ decision followed a months-long review of the pros and cons of a switch to Beijing, which was offering $8.5 million in development funds to replace support from Taiwan.

In a cabinet vote on Monday, there were 27 votes to shift ties and six abstentions, creating an “overwhelming” majority, a Solomon Islands member of parliament told Reuters. The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to questions.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee; additional reporting by Ben Blencher in BEIJING and Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Taiwan president in U.S. after warning of threat from ‘overseas forces’

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen arrives at the hotel where she is supposed to stay during her visit in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Michelle Nichols and Carlo Allegri

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in the United States on Thursday on a trip that has angered Beijing, warning that democracy must be defended and that the island faced threats from “overseas forces,” in a veiled reference to China.

China, which claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and views it as a wayward province, had called on the United States not to allow Tsai to transit there on her overseas tour.

Tsai is spending four nights in the United States – two on the first leg and two on the way back from a visit to four Caribbean allies. She began her trip in New York and is expected to stop in Denver on her way back.

Shortly before Tsai was due to arrive at her Manhattan hotel, a Reuters photographer witnessed a brawl at the hotel’s entrance between dozens of pro-China and pro-Taiwan protesters, which was eventually broken up by police.

The New York Police Department was not immediately able to comment on whether there had been any arrests.

Tsai was last in the United States in March, but her stops this time will be unusually long, as normally she spends just a night at a time in transit.

The U.S. State Department has said there had been no change in the U.S. “one-China” policy, under which Washington officially recognizes Beijing and not Taipei, while assisting Taiwan.

However, analysts said the extended stopovers served to emphasize the Trump administration’s support for Tsai at a time when she has been coming under increasing pressure from Beijing, a major U.S. security rival with which Washington has been engaged in a year-long trade war.

Speaking before departure at Taipei’s main international airport at Taoyuan, Tsai said she would share the values of freedom and transparency with Taiwan’s allies, and was looking forward to finding more international space for Taiwan.

“Our democracy has not come easily and is now facing threats and infiltration from overseas forces,” Tsai said, without being specific.

“These challenges are also common challenges faced by democracies all over the world,” she said. “We will work with countries with similar ideas to ensure the stability of the democratic system.”

CARIBBEAN STOPS

Taiwan has been trying to shore up its diplomatic alliances amid pressure from China. Taipei now counts only 17 countries as diplomatic allies, almost all small Central American, Caribbean or Pacific nations.

Tsai will be visiting St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti on her overseas tour.

In New York, Tsai will meet with members of the Taiwanese community and U.N. ambassadors of allied countries.

The State Department described Tsai’s visit as “private and unofficial” and said she would be greeted in New York by James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. It did not respond when asked if Tsai would have contact with any other U.S. officials.

Seeking to bolster Taiwan’s defenses, the United States this week approved an arms sale worth an estimated $2.2 billion for Taiwan, despite Chinese criticism.

Tsai, who is up for re-election in January, has repeatedly called for international support to defend Taiwan’s democracy in the face of Chinese threats. Beijing has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on drills in the past few years.

Douglas Paal, who served as U.S. representative to Taiwan from 2002 to 2006, said Tsai’s extended stopovers showed U.S. approval for the “caution and restraint” she had shown in her dealings with Beijing.

“It makes sense to reinforce that with generous transit treatment,” he said. “This is also … a message to China. The U.S. government believes Tsai is behaving responsibly in respecting the framework of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations.”

Paal said the Trump administration had yet to indicate a significant shift in the traditional U.S. approach to Taiwan, but this could change in the event of a deterioration of U.S. relations with Beijing.

“It’s like an engine running at a high idle,” he said. “Trump has not engaged the gears, but there is a lot of activity at lower levels seeking to upgrade relations. So change has not occurred in a big way yet, but it could happen at any time. With unpredictable consequences.”

(Reporting by I-Hwa Cheng; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei and David Brunnstrom in Washington; writing by Ben Blanchard; editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish)

U.S. ‘playing with fire’ on Taiwan, China says ahead of defense meeting

FILE PHOTO: Flags of Taiwan and U.S. are placed for a meeting between U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce speaks and with Su Chia-chyuan, President of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States is “playing with fire” with its support for self-ruled Taiwan, China said on Thursday, in angry comments ahead of a meeting between Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

The two countries, locked in an escalating trade war, are also at odds over a series of strategic issues, from the disputed South China Sea to democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its sacred territory, to be taken by force if needed.

Wei and Shanahan – who on his first day as acting defense secretary in January said the U.S. military would focus on “China, China, China” – are both attending the annual Shangri-La defense forum in Singapore which begins on Friday, where they are expected to meet.

China has been particularly incensed by recent U.S. Navy patrols in the Taiwan Strait, U.S. legislation in support of Taiwan and a meeting between Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee and White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Speaking at a regular monthly news briefing, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian described military ties between Beijing and Washington as generally good.

But he took a much darker tone when asked about U.S. support for Taiwan, an issue China has long described as the most sensitive in relations between the two countries.

“Recently, the U.S. sides has been continually playing the ‘Taiwan card’, trying in futile to ‘use Taiwan to control China’. This is deluded,” Wu said.

“The series of actions the U.S. side has taken is playing with fire, seriously harms the development of military relations between China and the United States, and seriously harms peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait area.”

Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted an exercise to repel an invading force on Thursday, as its defense minister pledged to defend the island against what it sees as China’s rising military threat.

Washington has no formal ties with U.S. ‘playing with fire’ on Taiwan, China says ahead of defense meeting but is its most important international supporter and main supplier of arms.

A senior U.S. defense official said the fact that Shanahan was going to the Shangri-la dialogue during a period of tension with Iran was a sign that the United States was committed to the region and its allies.

During a meeting with Wei, Shanahan is expected to bring up better communication between the two militaries to avoid the risk of miscalculation, the U.S. official said.

While Wei will likely tackle the Sino-U.S. trade dispute and the hardening Trump administration approaches to Taiwan and the South China Sea, Asian states will be looking for calming messages, according to security experts and regional diplomats.

“Regional countries will be expecting reassurances that China’s intentions are in fact peaceful given its growing military might,” said Singapore-based regional security analyst Ian Storey. Storey, of Singapore’s ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, said Wei must also speak to his domestic constituents, given the fact his address and a rare question-and-answer session are expected to be shown prominently in China.

“In the current environment maybe they won’t want him to be too accommodating. He can be expected to blame the U.S. for growing tensions in the South China Sea and there is no way he is going to admit that China is part of the problem.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Greg Torode in Hong Kong and Idrees Ali in Washington)

China warns pig trade against African swine fever cover-ups as Taiwan concerns grow

Pork for sale is seen at a market in Beijing, China December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has warned the country’s pork industry that covering up cases of African swine fever is a crime, days after a dead pig was found on a Taiwanese beach prompting Taipei to claim Beijing was not sharing accurate information on the disease.

China’s animal husbandry and veterinary affairs bureau is stepping up investigation and punishment of illegal activity in the pig industry, said a statement published on the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs website on Friday.

Failing to report deaths and privately slaughtering and selling sick or dead pigs would be pursued under criminal law, it said, and compensation of 1,200 yuan ($175) for each pig culled was sufficient incentive for farmers to report the disease.

In the worst epidemic of the disease ever seen, China has confirmed about 100 cases of African swine fever across 23 provinces since August last year. The disease, for which there is neither cure nor vaccine, is deadly to pigs but does not harm people.

But many experts believe it is even worse than has been reported, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen urged Beijing last month to “not conceal” information about the disease.

Tsai raised the issue again in a New Year’s speech after a dead pig was found on a beach on Taiwan’s Kinmen island, a half-hour ferry ride from the east coast of China. The pig has since been confirmed to have the African swine fever virus, while another dead pig was found on a nearby island on Friday, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.

“During our recent efforts to prevent an African swine fever epidemic, China’s government has never followed the relevant agreements and provided Taiwan with accurate, real-time reports about the epidemic situation,” she said.

China has repeatedly said that the disease has been effectively dealt with and is under control. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment on Friday.

The dead animals found on the Taiwanese islands have stoked fears that Taiwan’s pigs could soon become infected with the disease.

Taiwan’s herd of 5.39 million pigs is tiny compared with China’s 700 million, but pork is the most popular meat in both places and domestic production in Taiwan reduces its need for imports of the staple meat.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton in BEIJING and Yi-Mou Lee in TAIPEI; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Texan running 3-D printed guns company apprehended in Taiwan

Cody Wilson appears in a handout photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, September 21, 2018. U.S. Marshals Service/Handout via REUTERS

By Jon Herskovitz and Yimou Lee

AUSTIN, Texas/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A Texan running a 3-D printed guns company who flew to Taiwan as police investigated an accusation that he had sex with an underage girl was apprehended in Taipei on Friday after U.S. authorities annulled his passport, officials said.

Cody Wilson, 30, was taken to immigration authorities in the capital by officers from Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, according to local media reports and an official from the bureau who asked not to be named. However, two Taiwanese officials denied Wilson was arrested or in custody. His exact status was unclear.

Wilson, who is at the center of a U.S. legal battle over his plan to publish instructions for the manufacture of 3-D printed plastic guns, flew into Taiwan legally, the country’s National Immigration Agency said in a statement on Friday. Because his U.S. passport was later annulled, the agency’s statement said, he “no longer has the legal status to stay in Taiwan.”

A lawyer for Wilson, as well as representatives of the Austin Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, were not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Taiwan does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Austin police have said Wilson flew to Taiwan earlier this month after a friend told him officers were investigating an allegation by a 16-year-old girl who said she was paid $500 to have sex with him at a hotel in the Texas capital.

Police said investigators interviewed the girl and on Wednesday obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest, but he had flown to Taiwan by then.

Police said they are aware that Wilson travels often for business, but that they do not know why he went to Taiwan.

Wilson is the founder of Defense Distributed, the focus of a legal and political battle over its placing on the internet blueprints for plastic guns that can be made with a 3-D printer.

The files could previously be downloaded for free, but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction last month that blocked the posting of the blueprints online.

Gun control proponents are concerned that such weapons will be untraceable, undetectable “ghost” firearms that pose a threat to global security.

Some gun rights groups say the technology is expensive, the guns are unreliable and the threat is overblown.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot)

China warns of more action after military drills near Taiwan

FILE PHOTO - China's aircraft carrier Liaoning (C) takes part in a military drill of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. Picture taken April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

By Ben Blanchard and Jess Macy Yu

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A series of Chinese drills near Taiwan were designed to send a clear message to the island and China will take further steps if Taiwan independence forces persist in doing as they please, Beijing said on Wednesday, as Taiwan denounced threats of force.

Over the past year or so, China has ramped up military drills around democratic Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the self-ruled island. Last week China drilled in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, and its hostility towards the island has grown since the 2016 election as president of Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China has been issuing increasingly strident calls for Taiwan to toe the line, even as Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo and keep the peace.

Speaking at a regular news briefing, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the message the People’s Liberation Army was sending with its exercises was “extremely clear”.

“We have the resolute will, full confidence and sufficient ability to foil any form of Taiwan independence separatist plots and moves and to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma said.

“If Taiwan independence forces continue to do as they please, we will take further steps,” he added, without giving details.

The military’s drills were aimed at protecting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the interests of people on both sides of it, Ma said.

In Taipei, the government’s China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said the people of Taiwan could not accept China’s military pressure and threats which it said had damaged peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“The mainland side should not attribute the consequences of misjudgment to Taiwan. This is an extremely irresponsible act,” it added.

The Republic of China is a sovereign state, the council said, using Taiwan’s formal name, and will brook no slander or criticism from China.

“We sternly warn the other side, do not create incidents again. Only by abandoning armed intimidation, facing up to the reality of the separate control on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and having pragmatic communication and dialogue can the differences be resolved.”

Amid the growing tension with China, Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it will simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major air base and using civilian-operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)