Taiwan scrambles fighter jets amid Chinese air and navy manoeuvres

Taiwan scrambles fighter jets amid Chinese air and navy manoeuvres

Taiwan invasion alert: Island scrambles fighter jets, puts navy on standby and activates missile systems in response to 34 Chinese jets and nine warships – as NATO warns of dangerous situation

  • Up to 20 Chinese aircraft encroached across the central line of the Taiwan Strait
  • The latest escalation of tensions comes after weeks of Chinese military drills
  • China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it will not ‘renounce use of force’ in Taiwan

Taiwan has scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to large-scale manoeuvres of 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing yesterday instructed its air force and navy to perform a major operation which saw 20 Chinese aircraft cross the central line of the Strait, long seen as a buffer zone between the island nation and mainland China, according to Taiwanese defence officials.

It is the latest escalation of tensions between the two states and comes after weeks of Chinese military drills close to Taiwanese air space, leading Taipei and its US allies to be wary of a potential blockade or outright attack.

China’s alarming military manoeuvres came just hours after foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning declared Beijing ‘does not promise to renounce the use of force’ in its efforts to reunify.

A Taiwan Mirage 2000 jet sits in a hangar surrounded by ordinance during a drill at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, as the Taiwanese armed forces prepare for a potential conflict

Taiwanese military personnel have for weeks been engaged in preparedness drills as Beijing continues to ramp up threatening behaviour in the Taiwan Strait

Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing’s military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Wednesday, Jan 11, 2023

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China has for weeks sent warships, bombers, fighter jets and support aircraft into airspace near Taiwan on a near daily basis, hoping to wear down the island’s limited defence resources and undercut support for pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen.

Chinese fighter jets have also confronted military aircraft from the US and allied nations over international airspace in the South China and East China seas, in what Beijing has described as dangerous and threatening manoeuvres.

Taiwan has responded to China’s threats by ordering more defensive weaponry from the US, leveraging its democracy and high-tech economy to strengthen foreign relations and revitalising its domestic arms industry. 

Taiwan has been governed independently from mainland China since a 1949 civil war, but President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party claims the island is part of ‘One China’ and has made no bones about its intention to reclaim the territory. 

Beijing has accusing Taiwan of using the US and other Western allies to bolster its efforts to maintain independence, and insists the US is manipulating Taiwan to ‘contain’ Chinese influence.

Taiwanese support for independence meanwhile is overwhelming. According to a December 2022 poll conducted by the National Chengchi University, less than three percent of Taiwanese citizens wants to reunify with China immediately, and only five percent think Taiwan should unify at some point in the future. 

A Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet is recorded flying close to a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft in international airspace over the South China Sea, according to the U.S. military, in a still image from video taken December 21, 2022

Soldiers rush after alighting from an assault amphibious vehicle during a military drill in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023

Soldiers and tanks are deployed to a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing’s military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Wednesday, Jan 11, 2023

China’s President Xi Jinping has openly declared that the CCP believes Taiwan is a part of China under its ‘One China’ policy

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A string of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan, including by then-US house speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from the European Union, spurred displays of military might from both sides.

In response to Ms Pelosi’s visit in August, China staged war games surrounding the island and fired missiles over it into the Pacific Ocean.

China has repeatedly threatened retaliation against countries seeking closer ties with Taiwan, but its attempts at intimidation have sparked a backlash in popular sentiment in Europe, Japan, the US and other nations.

In a memo last month, US air force general Mike Minihan instructed his officers to be prepared for a US-China conflict over Taiwan in 2025 as a result of the increasing tensions. 

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s de-facto ambassador in Washington, Bi-khim Hsiao, said there is a new emphasis on preparing military reservists and civilians for the kind of all-of-society fight that Ukrainians are waging against Russia following the February 24, 2022 invasion.

‘Everything we’re doing now is to prevent the pain and suffering of the tragedy of Ukraine from being repeated in our scenario in Taiwan,’ Ms Hsiao said.

‘So ultimately, we seek to deter the use of military force. But in a worst-case scenario, we understand that we have to be better prepared.’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg answers a question from students at Keio University Tokyo, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. Stoltenberg pointed to China-Taiwan tensions as a reason for NATO to develop its relations in the Indo-Pacific

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (L) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) on January 31, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday highlighted China’s threatening behaviour towards Taiwan as a reason why NATO must maintain and develop its working relationships in the Indo-Pacific. 

Speaking this morning during a visit to Tokyo, Stoltenberg said: ‘Working with partners around the world, especially in the Indo-Pacific, is part of the answer to a more dangerous and unpredictable world.’

Although he said China was not an adversary, the NATO chief said the country was becoming a ‘more and more authoritarian power’ that was displaying assertive behaviour, threatening Taiwan, and developing military capabilities that could also reach NATO countries.

‘We are more than ready to further strengthen and expand the partnership with countries in this region,’ he added.

China rejected the claims by Stoltenberg, saying that it has always been a defender of peace and stability.

‘On the one hand, NATO claims that its position as a regional defensive alliance remains unchanged, while on the other hand, it continues to break through traditional defense zones and areas, continuously strengthen military security ties with Asia-Pacific countries and exaggerate the threat of China,’ Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Ning said in a regular briefing held Wednesday.

‘I want to emphasise that the Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for geopolitical rivalry and confrontation between the camps with Cold War mentality is not welcomed,’ she added.

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