TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan reported renewed Chinese military activity around the island on Sunday, with nine aircraft crossing the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait and warships conducting “combat readiness patrols.”
Democratically-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for four years about regular Chinese military patrols and exercises near the island as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei over its sovereignty claims.
By the time Chinese President Xi Jinping was in San Francisco last week for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit and met U.S. President Joe Biden, the level of this military activity around Taiwan had subsided.
But Taiwan’s defense ministry reported that as of Sunday morning it had spotted nine Chinese aircraft crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two and is now regularly flown over by Chinese aircraft.
The aircraft involved included Su-30 and J-10 fighters, as well as early warning and electronic warfare aircraft, the ministry said.
The planes were accompanying Chinese warships conducting “joint combat readiness patrols,” it said.
Taiwan has sent its own troops to monitor the situation, the ministry said.
China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment. China says its activities near Taiwan are aimed at “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the United States and at protecting 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 its future.
Taiwan was the focus of the Biden-Xi talks in San Francisco.
Xi told Biden during their four-hour meeting on Wednesday that Taiwan was the biggest and most dangerous problem in US-China relations, according to a senior US official.
Taiwan holds presidential and legislative elections on January 13, with the island’s strained relations with China a major issue in the campaign.
In the past year and a half, China has staged two large-scale war games around Taiwan, although the Chinese air force has not flown over the island or into its territorial airspace.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard and Kim Coghill)
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