Taiwan ‘won’t shy from fight as China orders warplanes to surround island

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Taiwan scrambled its own warplanes and deployed missile systems to “monitor” the 27 Chinese aircrafts, which included 16 Russian-made Su-30s and six Shenyang J-11 fighters, as they flew over the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

And Beijing will hold its largest military drills in more than 25 years around the island, with live-fire drills and missile tests, for 72 hours.

Taiwan said some of China’s planned military exercises will take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, an unprecedented move a senior defence official described as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.

China has ramped up military and political pressure to try and force the island to accept Chinese rule.

And tension has rocketed since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night – a move which angered Beijing.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss yesterday criticised China’s “inflammatory” response and urged President Xi Jinping to “de-escalate”

Ms Pelosi – the most senior US politician to visit in 25 years – departed on Wednesday after meeting leaders in the capital Taipei.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “those who play with fire will not come to a good end, and those who offend China will be punished”.

“The United States is violating China’s sovereignty under the guise of so-called democracy,” he added.

The island’s military was on high alert last night as the Chinese jets flew over the median line – an unofficial dividing line between Beijing and Taipei – before turning back.

China responded to Mrs Pelosi’s visit by putting its military on high alert and announcing “targeted action” including live firing and missile test launches into the Taiwan Strait.

At least half of the six areas where the drills are planned to begin today appear to infringe on Taiwanese waters, according to Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defence studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University.

And Beijing will hold its largest military drills in more than 25 years around the island, with live-fire drills and missile tests, for 72 hours.

Taiwan said some of China’s planned military exercises will take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, an unprecedented move a senior defence official described as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.

China has ramped up military and political pressure to try and force the island to accept Chinese rule.

And tension has rocketed since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night – a move which angered Beijing.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss yesterday criticised China’s “inflammatory” response and urged President Xi Jinping to “de-escalate”

Ms Pelosi – the most senior US politician to visit in 25 years – departed on Wednesday after meeting leaders in the capital Taipei.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “those who play with fire will not come to a good end, and those who offend China will be punished”.

“The United States is violating China’s sovereignty under the guise of so-called democracy,” he added.

The island’s military was on high alert last night as the Chinese jets flew over the median line – an unofficial dividing line between Beijing and Taipei – before turning back.

China responded to Mrs Pelosi’s visit by putting its military on high alert and announcing “targeted action” including live firing and missile test launches into the Taiwan Strait.

At least half of the six areas where the drills are planned to begin today appear to infringe on Taiwanese waters, according to Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defence studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University.

Using live fire in a country’s territorial airspace or waters “can possibly be seen as an act of war,” Wang warned.

Pictures posted on Chinese social network Weibo has appeared to show tanks amassing on the coast of Fujian, the closest point on mainland China to the island.

Columns of armoured vehicles were also seen moving through the nearby city of Xiamen, and a video posted on state media sites earlier this week showed off Chinese military hardware and urged troops to ‘be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies’.

Military generals in Taipei said the island nation does not want to fight with China but “won’t shy away from one” either. 

“We are resolved to uphold our sovereignty, liberty and democracy” they said in a statement posted alongside a video of fighter jets, submarines, attack helicopters and warships on manoeuvres.”

“We fear no threat or challenges. We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one. We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region’s stability,” the generals added.”

Taiwan’s port authorities have asked ships to find alternative routes to avoid the drills, and Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai said Taipei was negotiating with neighbouring Japan and the Philippines to find alternative aviation routes.

Ms Truss, speaking on a Conservative Party leadership campaign visit in Ludlow, Shropshire, said: “I do not support China’s inflammatory language on this issue.

“It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.”

Ms Pelosi said China cannot prevent World leaders from travelling to Taiwan.

She said: “Sadly, Taiwan has been prevented from participating in global meetings, most recently the World Health Organization, because of objections by the Chinese Communist Party.”

“While they may prevent Taiwan from sending its leaders to global forums, they cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from travelling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing Democracy, to highlight its many successes and to reaffirm our commitment to continued collaboration.”

And British MPs are expected to visit Taiwan later this year.

Using live fire in a country’s territorial airspace or waters “can possibly be seen as an act of war,” Wang warned.

Pictures posted on Chinese social network Weibo has appeared to show tanks amassing on the coast of Fujian, the closest point on mainland China to the island.

Columns of armoured vehicles were also seen moving through the nearby city of Xiamen, and a video posted on state media sites earlier this week showed off Chinese military hardware and urged troops to ‘be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies’.

Military generals in Taipei said the island nation does not want to fight with China but “won’t shy away from one” either. 

“We are resolved to uphold our sovereignty, liberty and democracy” they said in a statement posted alongside a video of fighter jets, submarines, attack helicopters and warships on manoeuvres.”

“We fear no threat or challenges. We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one. We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region’s stability,” the generals added.

Taiwan’s port authorities have asked ships to find alternative routes to avoid the drills, and Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai said Taipei was negotiating with neighbouring Japan and the Philippines to find alternative aviation routes.

Ms Truss, speaking on a Conservative Party leadership campaign visit in Ludlow, Shropshire, said: “I do not support China’s inflammatory language on this issue.”

“It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.”

Ms Pelosi said China cannot prevent World leaders from travelling to Taiwan.

She said: “Sadly, Taiwan has been prevented from participating in global meetings, most recently the World Health Organization, because of objections by the Chinese Communist Party.”

“While they may prevent Taiwan from sending its leaders to global forums, they cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from travelling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing Democracy, to highlight its many successes and to reaffirm our commitment to continued collaboration.”

And British MPs are expected to visit Taiwan later this year.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said the Chinese Communist Party has tried to make Ms Pelosi’s visit a “flashpoint”, telling BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “Because they’ve placed this enormous strategic importance on the visit when they could actually have just dismissed it out of hand as nothing more than a political stunt or a low-level delegation.”

“But they’re choosing to use it to draw a line in the sand and I think that shows how worried they are and how important this is for Xi Jinping as he attempts to reconsolidate his position going into the 20th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Ms Kearns confirmed the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, of which she is a member, intends to visit Taiwan later this year.

She said: “I think the reason for going, and it was me that suggested that we should visit as a Foreign Affairs Committee, is we visit allies all over the world, we also visit our friends and we try to understand the biggest issues facing our country and also international security.”

In June, Ms Truss called on Western allies to provide greater support for Taiwan so it can defend itself in the event of an attack from China.

Former minister Brandon Lewis was pressed on whether Ms Truss believes that Taiwan should be supplied with defensive weapons.

Mr Lewis, a supporter of Ms Truss’s bid to be come the next Conservative Party leader and prime minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think one of the things we’ve seen with Ukraine is the fact that it’s important that we are supporting sovereign democracies, that’s something we’ve got to do.”

“I think it is right that we in the West stay firm and strong against some of the pressures we see from (Russian president Vladimir) Putin’s regime, but also actually some of the challenges that we’re seeing from China, and, as somebody who’s been the security minister before, I’ve seen the growth in the economic power (and pressure) of China – it’s something that we need to be aware of.”

He added: “We need to learn the lesson of making sure that we are working with our partners and defending our partners as early as possible to ensure that they’ve got the support they need. Now, in Ukraine’s case, yes, that was about defensive weapons and that was proven to be correct.”

He went on: “The point Liz was making to the select committee was that we need to be giving the support early where people need it. Now, in different cases that will mean different things, it can be moral support, it could be economic support; in Ukraine’s case, yes, that was about defensive weapons support.”

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