| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Taiwan warns of surge in tensions as Chinese fighter jets cross median line

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence has warned of a possible “sharp increase” in military tensions after reporting renewed Chinese military activity, including fighter jets crossing the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait.

Democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for three years of increased military pressure from Beijing, mostly in the form of China’s air force flying near the island.

According to the ministry, Beijing had sent 24 aircraft, including fighter jets, bombers and drones, as well as five warships close to Taiwan in what it described as a “joint combat patrol” since 9am (01:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Half the warplanes crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or entered the self-ruled island’s southwest air defence identification zone, it said, and Taipei was using its own aircraft, vessels and land-based missile systems to monitor them.

The median line for years had served as an unofficial barrier between China and Taiwan until China’s air force began regularly crossing it a year ago.

“The continued military harassment by the Communist military in the region may lead to a sharp increase in tensions and worsen regional security,” the ministry said, calling on Beijing to “immediately stop such unilateral acts”.

It said maintaining the peaceful and stable status quo in the Taiwan Strait is critical to the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and all parties, including Beijing, have a common responsibility to uphold it.

The latest Chinese mission happened the same day Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an from Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which traditionally favours close relations with Beijing, arrived in Shanghai for annual city-to-city talks.

His office said the city government has many times reiterated that “the more difficult the environment is, the more the two sides should communicate”.

“What the people of Taiwan want is peace and prosperity. This is the voice of the people and the firm position of the city government,” it said.

Speaking to reporters before leaving for Shanghai, Chiang said the city forum was a good way to keep communication channels open and send a message of “peaceful values”.

Taipei city councillors for Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party issued a joint statement saying Chiang should “speak for the Taiwanese people” and demand an end to China’s military activities.

Chinese pressure
China has ratcheted up military and political pressure on self-ruled Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016 because she rejects Beijing’s stance that the island is part of Chinese territory.

Taipei has seen an increase in Chinese air incursions since an announcement on Friday that Tsai is to visit eSwatini, the only African country that recognises Taiwan diplomatically over China.

The National Defence Ministry said on Saturday that it had detected 32 Chinese warplanes and nine warships around the island over 24 hours.

The increase in incursions also comes after the United States last week approved the sale of advanced sensor equipment for fighter jets to Taiwan.

And on Monday, Taiwan’s National Defence Ministry said a Chinese BZK-005 drone circled the island on a flight path that appears to be increasingly common for such long-range aircraft.

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

China also staged military drills this month after Vice President Lai Ching-te made a trip to Paraguay that included two US stopovers. Beijing also banned mango imports from the island.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said the drills were intended to serve as “a stern warning to the collusion of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists with foreign elements and their provocations”.

  • Aljazeera