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UPDATE 4-China sends more jets; Taiwan says it will fight to the end if there's war

Global Apr 08, 2021 04:50
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© Reuters.

* Taiwan reports 15 Chinese aircraft in defence zone
* Taiwan says will fight to end if China attacks
* Chinese carrier group has been drilling off Taiwan
* US warship sails through Taiwan Strait

(Adds U.S. comment)
By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee
TAIPEI, April 7 (Reuters) - China sent more fighter jets
into Taiwan's air defence zone on Wednesday in a stepped-up show
of force around the island Beijing claims as its own, and
Taiwan's foreign minister said it would fight to the end if
China attacks.
The democratic self-governed island has complained of
repeated military activities by Beijing in recent months, with
China's air force making almost daily forays in Taiwan's air
defence identification zone. On Monday, China said an aircraft
carrier group was exercising close to the island. Taiwan's Defence Ministry said 15 Chinese aircraft,
including 12 fighters, entered its air defence identification
zone, with an anti-submarine aircraft flying to the south
through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Taiwan's air force sent up aircraft to intercept and warn
the Chinese away, the ministry added.
Adding to the stepped-up military activity, the U.S. Navy
said its John S. McCain guided missile destroyer conducted a
"routine" transit of the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.
China's Eastern Theatre Command said it tracked the ship and
denounced the United States for "endangering the peace and
stability of the Taiwan Strait".
Speaking earlier in the day, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph
Wu said the United States was concerned about the risk of
conflict.
"From my limited understanding of American decision makers
watching developments in this region, they clearly see the
danger of the possibility of China launching an attack against
Taiwan," he told reporters at his ministry.
"We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions
and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we
need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend
ourselves to the very last day."
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price was
asked about the Chinese activity and Wu's comments and said the
United States noted with "great concern" a pattern of ongoing
Chinese intimidation efforts in the region, including towards
Taiwan.
Price reiterated past statements that the U.S. commitment to
Taiwan is "rock solid" and added:
"As reflected in the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States
maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force, or other
forms of coercion, that would jeopardize the security or the
social or economic system of the people on Taiwan."
The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral John
Aquilino, said at his nomination hearing last month for overall
command of the U.S. Indo-Pacific region that estimates of when
China might have the capability to invade Taiwan ranged between
now and 2045 and added: "My opinion is this problem is much
closer to us than most think."
China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to requests
for comment on Wu's remarks. China has said its activities
around Taiwan are aimed at protecting China's sovereignty.

'PORCUPINE' TAIWAN
Neither Taiwan nor China has said precisely where the
Chinese carrier group is, or whether it is heading towards the
disputed South China Sea, where a U.S. carrier group is
currently operating. Taiwan's Deputy Defence Minister Chang Che-ping told
parliament the Chinese carrier's movements were being closely
followed, and described its drills as routine.
A person familiar with Taiwan's security planning told
Reuters the carrier group was still "near the Japanese islands",
declining to disclose the exact location. Japan said on Sunday
that the carrier group entered the Pacific after sailing through
the Miyako Strait, through Japan's southern Ryukyu island chain
northeast of Taiwan.
Washington, Taiwan's most important international backer and
arms supplier, has been pushing Taipei to modernise its military
so it can become a "porcupine", hard for China to attack.
Wu said Taiwan was determined to improve its military
capabilities and spend more on defence.
"The defence of Taiwan is our responsibility. We will try
every way we can to improve our defence capability."
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it will run eight days of
computer-aided war games this month, simulating a Chinese
attack. A second phase, including live-fire drills and
anti-landing drills, will take place in July, when hospitals
would also practice handling mass casualties.
"The drills are designed based on the toughest enemy
threats, simulating all possible scenarios on an enemy invasion
on Taiwan," Major General Liu Yu-Ping told reporters.
Asked if Washington's de facto embassy, the American
Institute in Taiwan, would send representatives to the drills,
Liu said such a plan was "discussed" but "will not be
implemented", citing military sensitivity.

UPDATE 4-China sends more jets; Taiwan says it will fight to the end if there's war
 

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