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Taiwan says 68 Chinese warplanes, 10 vessels detected near island

Chinese warplanes and navy ships detected around Taiwan amid rising tensions over territorial claims and military exercises.



TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Dozens of Chinese warplanes and 10 navy ships were detected around Taiwan, authorities in Taipei said Thursday after warning that Beijing was conducting air and sea drills in the Western Pacific.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and relations have soured since the island’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016.

Beijing has since ratcheted up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan and the number of warplane flights around the island increased dramatically last year following a visit by Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that 68 Chinese aircraft and 10 naval vessels were detected near the island between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning.

Taipei had already said some of those planes and warships were heading to an unspecified area of the Western Pacific to “conduct joint sea and air training” with China’s Shandong aircraft carrier.

The Shandong, one of two operational aircraft carriers in the Chinese fleet, was detected Monday around 60 nautical miles (110 kilometres) southeast of Taiwan heading into the Western Pacific, Taipei authorities said.

Japan’s defence ministry also said Wednesday its navy had detected six ships — including frigates, destroyers, one fast combat support ship and the Shandong — sailing through waters some 650 kilometres (400 miles) south of Miyakojima island, east of Taiwan.

It also confirmed that jets and helicopters had been detected taking off and landing from the Shandong.

‘Grey zone’

Taipei warned this week that China was stepping up “grey zone” activities around the island, accusing Beijing of seeking to raise regional tensions and pressure the territory while avoiding all-out conflict.

China’s military “has been tasked to develop capabilities to take over Taiwan”, one expert said.

“Those military exercises are aimed at developing and practising those capabilities,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at Washington DC’s German Marshall Fund.

“We should expect its trend to continue, with growing pressure on Taiwan.”

China has not commented officially on any drills being conducted in the Western Pacific.

However, its Eastern Theatre Command, which organises drills around Taiwan, said Wednesday an “aviation unit” had carried out training “recently” in a range of “thousands of kilometres”.

It did not mention Taiwan.

China conducted military exercises in April to simulate the encirclement of Taiwan after Tsai met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

At the time, Taiwan detected 71 Chinese warplanes in a 24-hour period, matching the record daily high set in December 2022.

China said last week its troops were “on constant high alert” after two ships belonging to the United States and Canada sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

The US Navy said the transit demonstrated “the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, another term for the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States and Western allies have increased “freedom of navigation” crossings of both the Taiwan Strait and the disputed South China Sea to reinforce that both are international waterways, angering Beijing.


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