Taiwan reports increased Chinese military drills nearby

A pilot is photographed operating an aircraft of the Air Force under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) during a combat readiness patrol and "Joint Sword" exercises around Taiwan, at an undisclosed location in this handout image released on April 8, 2023. | Photograph: Reuters

Defence ministry detects nine Chinese aircraft crossing Taiwan Strait’s median line after tensions were a focus of Biden-Xi talks at Apec summit

Taiwan has reported renewed Chinese military activity including nine aircraft crossing the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait and warships carrying out “combat readiness patrols”.

Democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for the past four years of regular Chinese military patrols and drills near the island, as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei over its sovereignty claims.

With the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in San Francisco last week for the Apec summit, where he met the US president, Joe Biden, such military activity around Taiwan had decreased.

But Taiwan’s defence ministry reported that starting on Sunday morning it had detected nine Chinese aircraft crossing the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which had previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two and which Chinese planes regularly fly over.

The aircraft involved included Su-30 and J-10 fighters, as well as early warning and electronic warfare aircraft, the ministry said.

The aircraft were accompanying Chinese warships carrying out “joint combat readiness patrols”, it added.

Taiwan sent its own forces to monitor, the ministry said.

China’s defence ministry did not answer calls seeking comment. China says its activities near Taiwan aim to address “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the US and protect China’s territorial integrity.

Taiwan’s government, which has repeatedly offered talks with China, rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

Taiwan was a major focus of the Biden-Xi talks in San Francisco.

Xi told Biden during their four-hour meeting on Wednesday that Taiwan was the biggest, most dangerous issue in US-China ties, according to a senior US official.

The account of the summit from China’s foreign ministry was mixed, portraying Xi as having taken a tough line, over Taiwan in particular.

Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary elections on 13 January, with the island’s fraught relations with China an important topic on the campaign trail.

China has staged large-scale war games around Taiwan twice during the past year and a half, though China’s air force has not flown over the island or into its territorial airspace.