China and Taiwan tensions could get 'ugly' says expert
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Both Taiwan and Japan reported increasing military excursions from Beijing forces. Xi Jinping’s Chinese Government regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland, and has threatened military action since the start of the year.
On Monday, Japan and Taiwan said there were incursions into their respective air defence identification zones.
Taipei said ten Chinese military aircraft, including fighters and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, had flown into its airspace.
Meanwhile, Japan recorded an ASW plane inside its zone just east of Taiwan.
Last Friday saw the largest ever incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone, with 20 Chinese aircraft including bombers and fighters entered the area.
Since last summer, Beijing has ordered more regular fly-overs above the Taiwan strait and Bashi Channel.
The Financial Times reported China has targeted the region as it crucial for forces to get into open waters and airspace in the Western Pacific.
Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, former chief of general staff of Taiwan’s armed forces, told the outlet: “These latest [incursions] are more about political messaging than about military operational significance.
“Flying around Taiwan is not a breakthrough for them. They operated circular flights with H6 bombers when I was in office.
“I believe that this time, they did not have enough time to prepare. So in order to express their determination towards the US, they flew out into the western Pacific but did not do a full circle.”
However, Su Tzu-yun, an analyst at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, a think-tank backed by Taiwan’s defence ministry said the latest incursion is an escalation.
He told Financial Times: “Y-8 and Y-9 aircraft have not done this before.
“We are going to see more of that as they start to expand the scope of their regular operations from the south-west of Taiwan to the south-east.”
It comes as Washington has begun to ready for the growing risk of a war over Taiwan, with senior US officials afraid China is flirting with the idea of seizing control of Taiwan, a scenario that would almost certainly drag in Washington and some of its allies.
At the start of the year, President Xi ordered People’s Liberation Army troops to be prepared for conflict “at all times”.
China’s defence spending this year is also set to rise by 6.8 percent, slightly up from last years increase.
Premier Li Keqiang said the funding would strengthen China’s forces “through reform, science and technology and the training of capable personnel”.
He added, according to a read out from the Chinese Government: “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security and development interests of our country.”
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