China air force circles Taiwan in latest drill

China air force circles Taiwan in latest drill

BEIJING - Reuters
China air force circles Taiwan in latest drill

Chinese aircraft flew around self-ruled Taiwan yesterday, China’s air force said, the latest in a series of recent exercises Taiwan has described as military intimidation.

Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.

Over the past year or so, China has ramped up military drills around Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island.

In a statement on its microblog, the Chinese air force said it scrambled fighter jets, early warning aircraft, reconnaissance planes and H-6K bombers from multiple airports for “combat military drills” on April 26.

The air force said its H-6K bombers had conducted numerous drills circling Taiwan since April 18 “to improve its ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China’s hostility towards the island has grown since the 2016 election of pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen as president.

China has been issuing increasingly strident calls for Taiwan to toe the line, even as Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo and keep the peace.

On April 25, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said drills near Taiwan were designed to send a clear message to the island and that China would take further steps if Taiwan independence forces persisted in doing as they pleased.