Taiwan’s air force scrambled for a second straight day on February 20 after a dozen Chinese fighter aircraft carried out drills close to Taiwan controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, has increased its military incursions in Taiwanese owned territory in an attempt to coerce the island’s democratically elected government to give up.
In a statement, the Taiwanese defence ministry revealed that it identified nine Chinese air force aircraft flying near Pratas islands on Friday. Additionally, it tracked eleven more aircraft-eight fighter jets, two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and an anti-submarine aircraft- also near the islands. The defence ministry also pointed out the involvement of Chinese naval forces but did not reveal any detail. In response, Taipei deployed missile systems to monitor in addition to warning the Chinese aircraft to leave.
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Taiwan appoints new minister
This comes on a day when Taiwan announced its new Defence Minister, who has been trained in the United States. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, sees the increasing engagement between Taipei and Washington as a threat and violation of the ‘One China” policy. Taiwan Friday appointed Chiu Kuo-cheng as the country’s new Defence Minister. Kuo-cheng, who was serving as National Security Bureau Director-General, graduated from the US Army War College in 1999. Kuo-cheng will replace Yen De-fa, who has been serving as Defence Minister since 2018. According to reports, Kuo-cheng will be tasked with bringing the next stage of military reforms. Chiu’s old job as intelligence chief will be taken by Taiwan’s top China policy-maker, Chen Ming-tong, now head of the Mainland Affairs Council.
Experts see China’s violation of the median line as a way to coerce Taiwan into towing Beijing’s line. However, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who came into power in 2016 and has since become a massive thorn for China, is calling for indigenous development of the country’s military to counter threats from Beijing. Under Tsai’s rule, Taiwan has not only developed closer ties with Washington but has also purchased high-end military equipment for billions of dollars, including armed drones, rocket systems, missiles, etc, making Beijing wary of the ties.
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Representative Image/ AP