China steps up flights over Taiwan Straits amid soaring tensions over US weapons deals

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The warplanes were deployed amid a bitter row over US arms sales to the self-ruled democratic state which China views as a renegade province, to one day be brought back under its sovereignty, by force if necessary. Chinese military analysts said People’s Liberation Army air patrols and drill operations in the region had now become routine.

China could demonstrate more of its abilities

Wei Dongxu

The Taiwan airforce scrambled its own jets on a number of occasions when the Chinese fighters approached the island’s self-proclaimed southwestern “air defence identification zone”.

And data shows the island’s defence forces use radio broadcasts to ward off the PLA warplanes no fewer than 84 times as they encroached the meridian line in the 100-mile-wide waterway between Taiwan and the mainland.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told China’s state-run Global Times: “This shows that the Chinese mainland’s military forces have made patrols in the Taiwan Straits routine and normal, and they have achieved complete monitoring of any anomaly on the island or from foreign forces that might occur.

“The mainland will adjust its activities in accordance with the situation.

“If Taiwan or foreign countries like the US conduct further military provocations, the PLA could demonstrate more of its abilities, including anti-access and seizure of aerial superiority and sea control.”

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Colonel Tan Kefei said: “The PLA operations came amid America’s latest weapons sales to the island, which seriously violates the one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiques, and severely interferes in China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.”

Taiwan’s defence authority said China mainly deployed its Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft, and Y-8 and Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft.

Defence analysts said these warplanes can monitor surface and underwater vessel movements, gather electronic signals and intelligence and jam the electronic devices of opposing forces.

Furious Chinese military chiefs threatened the US with “dire consequences” after Washington sealed a second multibillion-dollar arms deal with Taiwan within the space of a week.

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said the US had to halt arms sales to Taiwan and warned it was risking peace and stability in the Taiwan region.

He said: “US arms sales to Taiwan seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, and undermine China’s national sovereignty and security interests.

“China urges the US to handle Taiwan-related issues prudently in order to avoid dire consequences for state-to-state and military-to-military relations between China and the US.”

He said the PLA had the “resolve, confidence and ability” to defeat foreign interference of any kind and any attempts at “Taiwan independence” separatism.

Chinese state media has responded to the arms sales by calling for warplanes to “fly over the island of Taiwan” and declared any retaliation from the Taiwanese government “means war.”

Global Times editor Hu Xijin accused the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of promoting anti-China sentiment and working with Washington to “jeopardise the rise of the mainland.”

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In a fiery editorial he said: “The fighter jets of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must fly over the island of Taiwan to declare national sovereignty and show the determination to exercise the Anti-Secession Law.

“This is the firm step the Chinese mainland needs to walk in a bid to lock down ‘Taiwan independence’ tendencies.

“The mainland should clearly warn the DPP authorities that if the Taiwan military dares to open fire at mainland warplanes flying over Taiwan, it means war and the PLA will deal a crushing blow to the Taiwan military.”

The Chinese foreign ministry said the country will take necessary measures to uphold its sovereignty and security interests in the wake of the arms deals.

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