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TAIPEI, April 9 (Reuters) – China began a second day of drills around Taiwan on Sunday as the island’s defense ministry announced multiple air force strikes and said it was monitoring the movement of Chinese missile forces, as the United States said it was watching too. .
China, which maintains that Taiwan has democratically administered its territory, began three days of military exercises around the island on Saturday, the day Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States.
While a security source told Reuters most of the operations ended Saturday by sundown, Taiwan’s defense ministry said they had scaled back on Sunday and the island’s military had shifted much of its aircraft between Su-30 and J-11 fighters, as well as ships.
“For the Chinese Communist Party’s Rocket Force, the nation’s military is also closely monitored by the joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system, and the air defense forces remain at the highest level,” the ministry said.
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket is in charge of China’s ground-based missile system.
Last August, following a visit to Taipei by the US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, China played sports around Taiwan, including firing missiles into the waters near the island, although similar drills have yet to be announced this time.
While in Los Angeles last week, during her trip from Central America to officially request her return, Tsai met with the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, despite Beijing’s warnings against it.
Indeed, the US embassy in Taiwan said on Sunday that the United States is closely monitoring China’s drills around Taiwan and is “comfortable and confident” it has enough resources and capabilities to ensure regional peace and stability.
US communication channels with China remain open and the United States has consistently urged restraint and no change in the status quo, said a spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as the diplomatic mission in the absence of a formal press release.
Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979, but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
China, which has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control, says Taiwan is a major and sensitive issue in relations with the United States, and the location is a frequent source of tensions.
Beijing considers Tsai a separatist and has repeatedly asked her to reject the talks. Tsai says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
Chinese fighters and long ships
For three years or so, China has been mounting military pressure against Taiwan, flying regular missions around Taiwan, though not in its territorial airspace or on the island itself.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said early Sunday that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted 71 Chinese air force and nine naval vessels around Taiwan.
The ministry published a map showing that about half of those aircraft, including Su-30s and J-11s, crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which for years has served as a private barrier between the two sides.
The ministry had indicated late on Saturday that all 71 aircraft had crossed the line, but had clarified the number on Sunday by paper, showing where the crossings were and how many aircraft.
Chinese state media said the aircraft were armed with live weapons. Taiwanese air force fighters also typically carry live weapons when they can see China’s surprise attacks.
Late on Saturday, the Taiwan Ocean Affairs Council, which runs the Coast Guard, posted footage on its YouTube channel showing one of the Chinese longboats shadowing it, though it did not give the exact location.
“They are harming regional peace, stability and security. Please turn back and leave immediately. If you continue to proceed, we will take enforcement measures,” the commander radioed the Chinese ship.
Another Taiwanese tall ship, the Di Hua, was shown escorting a Coast Guard ship in what the Coast Guard commander calls a “standoff” with a Chinese long ship.
Still, civilian flights around Taiwan, including Kinmen and Matsu, two groups of mainland Taiwan islands right off the Chinese coast, continued as normal.
In August, civilian air traffic was disturbed after China announced effective no-fly zones in several blocks near Taiwan, where they fired missiles.
Taiwan has asked to restart trade stalled by the covid-19 pandemic as a show of goodwill to Beijing, including allowing flights to a large number of Chinese cities, but Beijing has complained that Taipei is too slow.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary that peace, development, exchange and cooperation were the “common aspiration” of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
“The compatriots on both sides share the same roots and have the same culture. They are a family whose blood is thicker than water. Both benefit from peace, both are won by cooperation,” it was said.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Leslie Adler and William Mallard
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