China says Taiwan drills are meant to hone combat capabilities

Appearance of Chinese bombers, fighter jets has triggered anger in Taiwan, which scrambled its own fighter jets.

    An H-6 bomber of the Chinese air force near a Taiwan F-16 in a February 10 photo provided by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense [Taiwan Ministry of National Defense via Reuters]
    An H-6 bomber of the Chinese air force near a Taiwan F-16 in a February 10 photo provided by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense [Taiwan Ministry of National Defense via Reuters]

    A second day of drills by China's military close to Taiwan were aimed at improving combat capabilities, the People's Liberation Army said after Taiwan's air force scrambled to intercept Chinese jets that briefly crossed into its airspace.

    Tensions have spiked between China and the self-ruled island since Sunday when Taiwan F-16s shadowed Chinese fighters and bombers which flew around the island. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory.

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    On Monday, Taiwan's air force scrambled after Chinese jets briefly crossed an unofficial middle line in the Taiwan Strait.

    In a statement late on Monday, the People's Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command said its forces carried out "air-ground assault and fire support drills to further refine and test their multi-service joint combat capabilities".

    Focus on outbreak

    China has stepped up such drills since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen first took office in 2016, believing she wishes to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for China.

    Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide last month on a platform of standing up to China, says Taiwan is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

    China's Eastern Theatre Command said: "Taiwan independence forces have ignored national justice and stepped up their pursuit of independence."

    "The theatre forces always maintain a high degree of alertness, follow closely the situation and resolutely fulfil their missions," the statement added.

    Taiwan has said the drills are a threat to regional peace and says the island will not buckle in the face of China's threats.

    Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on Tuesday that China's military actions had "unnecessarily triggered resentment among Taiwanese and harassed regional peace".

    "We still hope China could really alleviate people's suffering due to the disease outbreak," Su said. "China should use all the power it has to help its people."

    Tsai said on Monday that China should focus on tackling the outbreak of the new coronavirus rather than menacing the island.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency