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China Aircraft Cross Taiwan Strait Again as U.S. Envoy Visits

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/19/2020 Bloomberg News
a man standing in front of a plane: Keith Krach, US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, alights from an aircraft after landing at the Sungshan airport in Taipei on September 17, 2020. © Photographer: PEI CHEN/AFP Keith Krach, US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, alights from an aircraft after landing at the Sungshan airport in Taipei on September 17, 2020.

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait for the second day in a row, putting pressure on the island after the U.S. sent a top diplomat to Taipei in a show of support.

Nineteen Chinese military aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, crossed the median on Saturday morning, according to a statement from Taiwan’s defense ministry. That followed similar action on Friday morning. Taiwan scrambled fighters and deployed air defense missile system to monitor the activities , the defense ministry said.

Incursions by Chinese war planes into the southwest part of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone pose a serious threat to regional peace and stability, the defense ministry said, urging China to exercise restraint and refrain from escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

The action not only “violated our sovereignty, but also destabilized regional peace,” the ministry said in a tweet.

The Eastern Theater Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army had earlier announced “scenario-based exercises” in the Taiwan Strait starting Friday, according to Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang.

‘Legitimate Action’

“It is a legitimate action of the Chinese army in promoting our security and sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” said Ren, speaking at a briefing in Beijing on the Chinese military’s international peacekeeping efforts. “The U.S. and Taiwan authorities have been in close contact recently, frequently stirring up trouble. In fact, it will only be a daydream for Taiwan to promote independence by colluding with foreign countries.”

The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper said Friday the military maneuvers were in response to a visit by U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, which it criticized as “collusion” between the U.S. and Taiwan and the most prominent source of “turbulence” in the Taiwan Strait.

“They are rehearsals on taking over Taiwan,” said an editorial in the Global Times. “What is needed is a political reason that can turn them into real battle to smash Taiwan independence forces.”

The PLA has conducted more than 30 maritime drills in all four of its major sea regions since late July, the Global Times also reported Monday, citing unidentified experts. The U.S. and Taiwan have also increased military drills in the area.

Chinese military aircraft did not venture across the middle line of the strait at all for two decades between 1999 and March last year, according to a U.S. defense department report last week on China’s military. Since then, there have been five incursions, including Saturday’s, according to statements by Taiwan’s defense ministry.

China has stepped up military activities in the waterway, as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen courts greater military and diplomatic support from the U.S. and its allies. Beijing regards the island as part of its territory, and reserves the right to take it by force, even though the two sides have been ruled separately for more than 70 years and have deep social and economic ties.

U.S. Diplomat Lands in Taiwan Amid Flurry of Chinese Incursions

The latest announcement came after Krach began a visit to Taiwan, ostensibly to attend the Saturday memorial service for former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui. It’s the second such visit in as many months, after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the most senior American official to travel to the island since Washington switched diplomatic ties to Beijing from Taipei in 1979.

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