China sent 71 warplanes near Taiwan as a part of its biggest display of military might since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the democratically run island, with Taipei accusing Beijing of “military intimidation.”
The Ministry of Defense in Taipei said the flights included 47 Chinese military aircraft that crossed either the median line of the Taiwan Strait or entered Taiwan’s southwest air-defense identification zone in a 24-hour period to 6 a.m. Monday. China also sent seven naval vessels near the island, it said.
“The CCP’s related ‘military intimidation’ is clearly aimed at deterring our people, which will not help the CCP’s international image,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
China’s military said Sunday it conducted exercises around Taiwan in response to escalating “collusion and provocations” from Taiwan and the US, drills that come after Washington authorized increased military assistance to the island.
The People’s Liberation Army said in a statement that it staged combat-readiness patrols and drills around Taiwan. The military would take “all necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the Eastern Theater Command, which is headquartered in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
Last week, U.S. lawmakers agreed to a $1.7 trillion spending bill that included $2 billion in weapons funding for Taiwan. China’s Defense Ministry has blasted the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, which permits up to $10 billion in weapons sales to Taiwan, for playing up the China threat and interfering in its internal affairs.
China usually increases the number of planes it sends into the strait after events that it deems provocative. Earlier this month, its military sent its biggest daily sortie of bombers into the Taiwan Strait in at least two years, in an apparent show of displeasure over a visit by a senior member of Japan’s ruling party.
“The PLA’s large-scale exercises the past few days serve as a political message expressing dissatisfaction with the US’s defense act, which has considerable resources committed to Taiwan this year,” said Drew Thompson, a former Defense Department official and visiting senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
The flights also served “as a signal to Taiwan intended to deter moves towards independence,” he added.
Beijing was infuriated with Pelosi’s trip to Taipei in August, which Foreign Minister Wang Yi called a “complete farce.” The People’s Liberation Army responded with unprecedented military drills around Taiwan, including firing missiles in the sea and crossing the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait.
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