Taipei, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- Taiwan on Friday said it detected 18 Chinese warplanes crossing the international boundary in the Taiwan Strait and deployed its warplanes in a tense standoff between Taipei and Beijing over the visit of a high official of the United States to the island.
In a statement on Twitter, the Taiwanese defense minister said that multiple aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force had entered the island’s air defense identification zone.
These included two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighter jets, four J-10 fighters, and four J-11 fighters, which crossed the median line that divides the strait into four separate points on the northeast and southeast of Taiwan, considered a rebel province by China.
In response, Taipei activated its anti-aircraft missile system to follow the Chinese planes, issued radio warnings, and even scrambled an undetermined number of its jets.
The island’s official news agency CNA reported that presidential spokesperson Xavier Chang urged China to restrain itself and added that the “military provocations” were unfavorable to Beijing’s international image.
Chang urged China to help maintain regional peace instead of “turning into a unilateral provocateur.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese military said the “exercises” carried out by its navy and air force, announced on Friday, “necessary measures to deal with the current situation across the Taiwan Straits and will help enhance the capability of troops (…) to safeguard the national unity, territorial sovereignty and security.”
In a statement, the defense ministry said its troops were performing “their duties and missions, and have the confidence and determination to thwart any attempt by any person or force to carry out ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities in any form.”
The military exercises coincide with a Taiwan visit by Keith Krach, the US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, who arrived on the island on Thursday.
He will be there until Saturday accompanied by Robert Destro, the US assistant secretary of state for the bureau of democracy, human rights, and labor.
Krach’s visit comes after US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan in August.
The visits came at a time of high tension between China and the US on several fronts, including trade and technology.
The two countries also accuse each other of militarizing the South China Sea region, which facilitates the passage of 30 percent of the world’s trade and is rich in natural resources, housing 12 percent of the global fish catch, in addition to large oil and gas fields.
Taiwan is one of the most sensitive issues for Beijing, which has declared on several occasions its intention to recover the territory by force if necessary.
China demands that the rebel province must return to its sovereignty, while the island has operated autonomously since 1949.
Although the US broke official diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 and changed them to Beijing, Washington has continued to maintain exchanges, particularly military sales, with Taiwan. EFE-EPA