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)

Taiwan scrambles jets as 18 Chinese planes buzz during U.S. visit

By Ben Blanchard and Yew Lun Tian

TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Taiwan scrambled fighter jets on Friday as 18 Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, crossing the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, in response to a senior U.S. official holding talks in Taipei.

China had earlier announced combat drills and denounced what it called collusion between the island, which it claims as part of its territory, and the United States.

U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades – to which China had promised a “necessary response.”

The U.S. State Department has said Krach, who arrived in Taipei on Thursday afternoon, is in Taiwan for a memorial service on Saturday for former President Lee Teng-hui, who was revered by many on the island and internationally as the father of Taiwan’s democracy.

But Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of large-scale air and sea drills last week.

With a U.S. presidential election looming in November, Sino-U.S. relations are already under huge strain from a trade war, U.S. digital security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.

Taiwan said 18 Chinese aircraft were involved on Friday, far more than in previous such encounters and entered its southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

“Sep. 18, two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters crossed the mid-line of the TaiwanStrait and entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ,” the defense ministry said in an English-language tweet.

Combat aircraft from both sides normally avoid passing through the Taiwan Strait mid-line.

“ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defense missile system to monitor the activities.” The ROCAF, Taiwan’s air force, has scrambled frequently in recent months in response to Chinese intrusions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has led the Trump administration’s rhetorical offensive against China, accused Beijing of bluster when asked about the Chinese activity.

“We sent the delegation to a funeral, and the Chinese have apparently responded by military blustering. I’ll leave it at that,” he told a news conference on a visit to Guyana.

In a statement, the Pentagon said it was another example of China using its military as a tool of coercion.

“The PLA’s aggressive and destabilizing reactions reflect a continued attempt to alter the status quo and rewrite history,” a Pentagon spokesman said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The ministry showed a map of the flight paths of Chinese jets crossing the mid-line.

Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwanese jets had scrambled 17 times over four hours, warning China’s air force to stay away. It also showed a picture of missiles being loaded onto an F-16 fighter at the Hualien air base on Taiwan’s east coast.

‘REASONABLE, NECESSARY ACTION’

In Beijing, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday’s maneuvers, about which he gave no details, involved the People’s Liberation Army’s eastern theater command.

“They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ren said.

He said Taiwan was a purely internal Chinese affair and accused its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of stepping up “collusion” with the United States.

Trying to “use Taiwan to control China” or “rely on foreigners to build oneself up” was wishful thinking and futile. “Those who play with fire will get burnt,” Ren said.

Taiwan’s presidential office urged China to exercise restraint, and urged the Taiwanese not to be alarmed, saying the military had a grasp on the situation.

Government officials in Taiwan, including President Tsai Ing-wen, have expressed concern in recent weeks that an accidental military encounter could spark a wider conflict.

Hu Xijin, editor of China’s widely read state-backed Global Times tabloid, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the drills were preparation for an attack on Taiwan should the need arise, and that they enabled intelligence-gathering about Taiwan’s defense systems.

“If the U.S. secretary of state or defense secretary visits Taiwan, People’s Liberation Army fighters should fly over Taiwan island, and directly exercise in the skies above it,” he added.

Chinese fighter jets briefly crossed the mid-line last month while U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar was in Taipei, and last week China carried out two days of large-scale drills off Taiwan’s southwestern coast.

The United States, like most countries, has official ties only with China, not Taiwan, though Washington is the island’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.

This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had lunch with Taiwan’s top envoy in New York. China’s U.N. mission said it had lodged “stern representations” over the meeting.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Additional reportnmg by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

Taiwan denounces large-scale Chinese drills near island

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan denounced China on Thursday over large-scale air and naval drills off its southwestern coast which it called a serious provocation and a threat to international air traffic.

It urged Beijing to rein in its armed forces.

China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own, has stepped up military exercises near the island, in what Taipei views as intimidation to force it to accept Chinese rule.

Yeh Kuo-hui, from Taiwan’s defense ministry’s operations and planning department, told a hastily-arranged news conference that China’s intentions could not be predicted.

“We must make all preparations for war readiness,” Yeh said, following a news briefing from senior officers describing the Chinese activities over the last two days, and showing a map of Chinese movements.

The drills took place in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, the ministry said. Taiwan says China sent advanced Su-30 and J-10 fighters to participate.

Taiwan Deputy Defense Minister Chang Che-ping said the drills threatened regional stability and endangered international aviation, he said.

“We once again say, do not underestimate the military’s determination to defend our home. We are confident and capable of defending the country,” Chang said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the government had shared “information related to China’s threat to key friendly nations”, a likely reference to the United States, Taiwan’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.

China’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment. China has held numerous military exercises up and down its coast and near the island in recent weeks.

Taiwan has this week been carrying out live-fire weapons tests off its southeast and eastern coast.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has warned of a rising risk of accidental conflict, saying communication must be maintained to cut the risk of miscalculation.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry and Timothy Heritage)

Pentagon concerned by China’s nuclear ambitions, expects warheads to double

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China is expected to at least double the number of its nuclear warheads over the next decade from the low 200’s now and is nearing the ability to launch nuclear strikes by land, air and sea, a capacity known as a triad, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The revelations came as tensions rise between China and the United States and as Washington seeks to have Beijing join a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia.

In its annual report to Congress on China’s military, the Pentagon said that China has nuclear warheads in the low 200’s, the first time the U.S. military has disclosed this number. The Federation of American Scientists has estimated that China has about 320 nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon said the growth projection was based on factors including Beijing having enough material to double its nuclear weapons stockpile without new fissile material production.

The Pentagon’s estimate is in line with an analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“We’re certainly concerned about the numbers … but also just the trajectory of China’s nuclear developments writ large,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, told reporters.

Earlier this year, China’s Communist Party-backed newspaper Global Times said Beijing needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time.

Sbragia said China was also nearing completion of its nuclear triad capacity, suggesting China is further along than previously publicly known. China has only two of the three legs of triad operational but is developing a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile.

The report said that in October 2019, China publicly revealed the H-6N bomber as its first nuclear capable air-to-air refueling bomber.

Washington has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend New START, a U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty that is due to expire in February.

China has said it has no interest in joining the negotiation, given that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is about 20 times the size of China’s.

In July, a senior Chinese diplomat said Beijing would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiations, but only if the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level.

China’s growing nuclear arsenal should not be used as an excuse for the United States and Russia not to extend New START, Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association advocacy group, said.

It “further reinforces the importance of extending New START and the folly of conditioning extension on China and China’s participation in arms control,” Reif added.

China’s nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the United States’, which has 3,800 nuclear warheads stockpiled, and Russia’s, which has roughly 4,300, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

“PREVENT TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE”

Tensions have been simmering between China and the United States for months. Washington has taken issue with China’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and moves to curb freedoms in Hong Kong. The increasingly aggressive posture comes as President Donald Trump bids for re-election in November.

Another source of tension has been Taiwan. China has stepped up its military activity around the democratic island Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory, sending fighter jets and warships on exercises close to Taiwan.

The Pentagon report, based on 2019 information, said China’s military continued to “enhance its readiness” to prevent Taiwan’s independence and carry out an invasion if needed.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

China says latest U.S. sailing near Taiwan ‘extremely dangerous’

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s military said on Wednesday the latest U.S. navy sailing near Chinese-claimed Taiwan was “extremely dangerous” and stirring up such trouble was in neither country’s interests.

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin sailed through the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, the U.S. navy said, in what have become relatively routine trips in recent months, though they always anger China.

The Eastern Theater Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its air and naval forces followed and monitored the U.S. ship throughout its voyage.

“Any words or deeds that … cause trouble in the Taiwan Strait are not in line with the fundamental interests of China and the United States, harm the well-being of compatriots on both sides of the strait, pose real threats to peace and stability in the region and are extremely dangerous”, it said.

Chinese forces will remain on high alert at all times to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it added.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the U.S. ship was on an “ordinary mission” and passed through the Taiwan Strait in a southerly direction.

The sailing comes a week after U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, the highest level U.S. official to travel to the island since Washington broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979.

China responded by sending fighter jets close to Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan a purely domestic matter, and routinely calls it the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the United States.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei)

U.S. health chief, visiting Taiwan, attacks China’s pandemic response

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar attacked China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday and said that if such an outbreak had emerged in Taiwan or the United States it could have been “snuffed out easily”.

The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing for trying to cover up the virus outbreak, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and prevaricating on information sharing. China angrily denies the accusations.

“The Chinese Communist Party had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus. But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day,” Azar said in Taipei, capital of self-ruled Taiwan, an island China claims as its own.

As the virus emerged, China did not live up to its “binding” international obligations in a betrayal of the cooperative spirit needed for global health, he added, wearing a face mask as he has done for all his public events in Taiwan.

“I believe it is no exaggeration to say that if this virus had emerged in a place like Taiwan or the United States, it might have been snuffed out easily: rapidly reported to public health authorities, who would have shared what they knew with health professionals and with the general public,” Azar said.

“Instead, Beijing appears to have resisted information sharing, muzzling doctors who spoke out and hobbling the world’s ability to respond.”

The United States has the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the world and President Donald Trump has come under scathing attack from critics at home for not taking what he calls the “China virus” seriously enough.

Taiwan has been praised by health experts for its early and effective steps to control the outbreak, with only 480 infections, including seven deaths.

Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has vowed to bring it under its rule, by force if necessary.

Chinese fighter jets on Monday briefly crossed the median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait, and were tracked by Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles, part of what Taipei sees as a pattern of harassment by Beijing.

Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing but is still Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority as relations with China sour over issues including human rights, the pandemic, Hong Kong and trade.

Azar said the world should recognize Taiwan’s health accomplishments and not try to push it out, pointing to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization due to Chinese objections.

“This behavior is in keeping with Beijing’s approach to WHO and other international organisations. The influence of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) far outweighs its investment in this public health institution – and it uses influence not to advance public health objectives, but its own narrow political interests.”

Both China and the WHO say Taiwan has been provided with the help it needs during the pandemic, which Taiwan disputes.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie)

China sends fighter jets as U.S. health chief visits Taiwan

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese air force jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait on Monday and were tracked by Taiwanese missiles, Taiwan’s government said, as U.S. health chief Alex Azar visited the island to offer President Donald Trump’s support.

Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades.

China, which claims the island as its own, condemned the visit which comes after a period of sharply deteriorating relations between China and the United States.

China, which had promised unspecified retaliation to the trip, flew J-11 and J-10 fighter aircraft briefly onto Taiwan’s side of the sensitive and narrow strait that separates it from its giant neighbor, at around 9 am (0100 GMT), shortly before Azar met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s air force said.

The aircraft were tracked by land-based Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles and were “driven out” by patrolling Taiwanese aircraft, the air force said in a statement released by the defense ministry.

China’s defense ministry did not immediately comment.

A senior Taiwan official familiar with the government’s security planning told Reuters that China was obviously “targeting” Azar’s visit with a “very risky” move given the Chinese jets were in range of Taiwan’s missiles.

The incursion was only the third time since 2016 that Taiwan has said Chinese jets had crossed the strait’s median line.

The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority, amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing, and has boosted arms sales.

“It’s a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from President Trump to Taiwan,” Azar told Tsai in the Presidential Office, standing in front of two Taiwanese flags.

Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing.

‘HUGE STEP’

Azar is visiting to strengthen economic and public-health cooperation with Taiwan and support its international role in fighting the novel coronavirus.

“Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture,” he told Tsai.

Taiwan’s early and effective steps to fight the disease have kept its case numbers far lower than those of its neighbors, with 480 infections and seven deaths. Most cases have been imported.

The United States, which has had more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country, has repeatedly clashed with China over the pandemic, accusing Beijing of lacking transparency.

Tsai told Azar his visit represented “a huge step forward in anti-pandemic collaborations between our countries”, mentioning areas of cooperation including vaccine and drug research and production.

Taiwan has been particularly grateful for U.S. support to permit its attendance at the World Health Organization’s decision-making body the World Health Assembly (WHA), and to allow it greater access to the organisation.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to China’s objections. China considers Taiwan a Chinese province.

“I’d like to reiterate that political considerations should never take precedence over the rights to health. The decision to bar Taiwan from participating in the WHA is a violation of the universal rights to health,” Tsai said.

Azar later told reporters that at Trump’s direction, he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had sought to restore Taiwan’s status as an observer at the WHA.

“But the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization have prevented that. This has been one of the major frustrations that the Trump administration has had with the World Health Organization and its inability to reform.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

Exclusive: Taiwan in talks to make first purchase of sophisticated U.S. drones – sources

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 Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is negotiating the sale of at least four of its large sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time, according to six U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations, in a deal that is likely to ratchet up tensions with China.

The SeaGuardian surveillance drones have a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km), far greater than the 160-mile range of Taiwan’s current fleet of drones.

While the sale of the unmanned aerial vehicles has been tacitly authorized by the State Department, two of the people said, it is not known whether the U.S. officials have approved exporting the drones with weapons attached, one of them said.

The deal has to be approved by members of Congress who may receive formal notification as soon as next month, two of the people said. Congress could choose to block a final agreement.

It would be the first drone sale after President Donald Trump’s administration moved ahead with its plan to sell more drones to more countries by reinterpreting an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

While Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has a huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own.

Taiwan submitted its request to buy armed drones early this year, one of the people familiar with the talks said. The United States last week sent Taiwan the pricing and availability data for the deal, a key step that denotes official approval to advance the sale. It is, however, non-binding and could be reversed.

A deal for the four drones, ground stations, spares, training and support could be worth around $600 million using previous sales as a guide. There could also be options for additional units in the future, one of the people said.

The island is bolstering its defenses in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near Taiwan

Relations between Beijing and Washington – already at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, a trade war, the coronavirus and Hong Kong – could fray more if the deal gets the final go-ahead from U.S. officials. The Pentagon has said arms sales to Taiwan will continue, and the Trump administration has kept a steady pace of Navy warships passing through the Taiwan Strait.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory, and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control. Beijing has denounced the Trump administration’s increased support for Taiwan.

China’s sophisticated air defenses could likely shoot down a handful of drones, according to Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at CSIS, a Washington think tank. But she still expects “China to scream about even the smallest arms sale that the U.S. makes to Taiwan because any sale challenges the ‘One China’ principle.”

“They get particularly agitated if they think it’s an offensive capability,” she said, adding that she expected the Trump administration to be less cautious than its predecessors.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States did not respond to a request for comment.

“As a matter of policy we do not comment on or confirm proposed defense sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a State Department spokesman said.

ONLY FOR FEW U.S. ALLIES

The U.S. has been eager to sell Taiwan tanks and fighter jets, but the deal to sell drones would be notable since only a few close allies – including Britain, Italy, Australia, Japan and South Korea – have been allowed to purchase the largest U.S.-made drones.

Currently, the Taiwanese government has a fleet of 26 Albatross drones made by Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, a quasi-defense ministry research agency, that can fly 160 nautical miles (300 km), or 80 before returning to base, according to records kept by the Bard Center for the Study of the Drone.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc’s SeaGuardian has an airframe that can handle carrying weapons – but only if contractually allowed by the U.S. government.

The United States has sold France unarmed MQ-9 Reapers which are similar to SeaGuardian’s, and later gave permission to arm them.

Last year, the United States approved a potential sale to Taiwan of 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around $2 billion as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions. A separate sale of 66 Lockheed Martin-made fighter jets also made it through the State Department’s process.

In recent weeks, China said it will sanction Lockheed Martin Co for involvement in the latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, D.C. ; Editing by Mary Milliken and Edward Tobin)

Taiwan practices ‘enemy annihilation’ after China steps up activity

FILE PHOTO: Members of the National Security Bureau take part in a drill next to a national flag at its headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi C

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s armed forces carried out live fire drills on its west coast on Thursday practicing “enemy annihilation on the shore,” ahead of its main annual exercises later this month and as China steps up military activities near the island it claims.

Taiwan has complained in recent months of repeated Chinese air force patrols near it, in some cases crossing into Taiwan-controlled airspace. In April, a Chinese naval flotilla led by the country’s first aircraft carrier passed near Taiwan.

China claims the democratic island as its own territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by China.

The drills, in a coastal area facing the sensitive Taiwan Strait, simulated fending off an attempted landing by enemy forces, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.

They involved Taiwan’s most modern fighter jet the F-16V, Apache attack helicopters, tanks and artillery, which fired live rounds, the ministry added, showing pictures of plumes of water in the sea where ordinance had hit their targets.

The drills were aimed at improving the military’s effectiveness at “enemy annihilation on the shore” and to “prevail along the coastline” to stop an enemy invasion, it said.

Taiwan later this month holds its main annual Han Kuang military exercise, which was postponed from earlier this year due to the new coronavirus.

Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with U.S.-made weapons, and President Tsai Ing-wen has made boosting the island’s defenses a top priority since she first won office in 2016.

However Taiwan faces an increasingly formidable and far larger Chinese military, which has been undergoing its own modernization program, adding stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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)